Just over a week ago, Rwanda experienced some of the worst landslides and floods in recent memory that claimed up to 35 lives, left about 20 others injured, killed dozens of livestock, and ravaged hundreds of homes and properties.
Northern Province’s Gakenke was the hardest hit district in disasters that saw the Kigali-Musanze road blocked for a few days, while floods also resulted in the overflowing of River Nyabarongo a few days later forcing authorities to close the Kigali-Muhanga road for a few days.
Now, Rwanda is an enormously hilly country that’s prone to different types of disasters, including landslips, earthquakes and floods.
The responsibility to mitigate disasters should not be left to the ministry in charge of disaster management, or the government for that matter, it’s everyone’s responsibility to try alleviate the earth’s wrath, which has increasingly been lethal in the face of global warming triggered by human behaviour.
From planting trees and embracing practices that help check soil erosion such as terracing, to avoiding building homes on dangerous hillsides and in valleys, every Rwandan has a role to play in ensuring that certain predictable disasters are kept at bay.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, in particular, needs to urgently take measures to ensure that all efforts designed to mitigate disasters are implemented to the letter, and everyone takes full ownership of all the intervention programmes.
The ministry needs to see to it that efforts led by other players, including other ministries all result in the desired outcome; as such, it must actively coordinate all the interventions to ensure that all players’ actions complement in each other and that no part of the country is left out.
Notably, while the government has always responded with a sense of urgency in the wake of disasters to ease suffering among the affected communities, we can do far better as far as prevention is concerned.
For example, it’s several years since thousands of dwellers of disaster zones were put on alert and asked to relocate to safer places, yet many are yet to relocate.
While we appreciate the complexities involved especially if the families concerned have no means to build safer homes by themselves, we can always find a way out. If we managed to successfully get rid of thatched houses in just a matter of months how could we fail to ensure that compatriots that live in the eye of the storm are helped to move to safer places?
With proper coordination, it is our firm belief that, together, – the government, the corporate sector, civil society, individual Rwandans and well-wishers – we can address this problem without a fuss.