By Emmanuel Ntirenganya
After disasters killed 222 people, destroyed 14,491 houses and 8,978 hectares of crops, 49 bridges, and claimed 754 livestock, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees (MIDIMAR) supported the affected households but also embarked on a mission to enhance understanding on disaster risk mitigation for effective scaling up of disaster preparedness and risk reduction activities.
The assistance provided consisted of shelters including iron sheets, camp sheetings and beddings to the families whose houses were affected. There was also the provision of kitchen sets as well as scholastic materials to school children whose materials were eroded by floods.
From January to June 2018, the support to the affected population was worth over 800 million Rwf according to the figures from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees.
In an interview with The New Times, the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugees, DE BONHEUR Jeanne d’Arc, said that there were different reasons behind the aggravation of disaster effects since January to June, 2018.
They included housing the high risk zones, the use of poor construction and substandard materials that increased the vulnerability of houses, existence of miserable drainage systems and low management of river sides during the extraction of sands as well as the lack of lightning protection systems in public space.
Despite different mitigation measures already in place and which have been constantly disseminated, there are still gaps requiring enhancing population understanding on disaster mitigation mechanisms.
“We still have a long way to go in terms of enhancing understanding on disaster risk mitigation. The population still needs to own the risk mitigation mechanisms and execute them instead of facing disaster effects,” the Minister said.
The population that has been mostly affected is that living in the high risk zones. Further, more destroyed houses are those built with poor construction materials and very old ones. Though the latter happened across the country, the government has been advising the population to relocate from the high risk zones to avoid the effects of disasters that are stinking in high risk zones more than other places.
“We invite the population to respect Government’s construction advices as stipulated in Instructions on construction for protection of natural and manmade disasters released in October 2012, available on MIDIMAR website (http://www.midimar.gov.rw). The Population is called upon to live in grouped and organized sites (Imidugudu) according to the master plans of their regions. It will increase the population’s resilience to disaster effects at the same time nearing development infrastructures,” the Minister of MIDIMAR advised.
With different disaster mitigation mechanisms in place, there is a need for minding the use of effective and appropriate construction materials to enhance the capacity of houses towards the disaster risks. Previous disaster damages proved that destroyed houses were built with miserable construction materials and to make the matter worse in high risk zones hence the increase of exposure to disaster effects.
“During our disaster risk reduction and preparedness activities, we are encouraging the population to build houses using effective and appropriate construction materials. We are also reminding them to canalize water from their houses by the use of water tanks or effective water canals,” the Minister added.
The MIDIMAR also reiterated that among the disaster risk mitigation mechanisms include the proper entertainment of riverbanks. Due to different activities carried out around and in rivers like digging sands and clay, river sides are affected hence the overflow of river water during the rain seasons.
The measures in place to entertain the riverbanks include respecting the river sides while digging sands and clays. Further, the reservation of enough space around the river sides worth to stock more water once river overflows could serve the purpose. Not only that but also some plants like bamboos should be planted along the river sides to limit damages in rain seasons.
Despite all mechanisms in place however, the Ministry of Disaster Management and refugees reminds that the implementation requires everyone’s efforts.
“The disaster risk mitigation activities require more unified efforts. From individuals to the public and private institutions, NGOs and other partners should take part in execution of disaster mitigation mechanisms in place,” the Minister of MIDIMAR reminded.
“If effectively done and not only by some people but also in a unified way, disaster risks will be successfully mitigated in our country,” she added.