Rwandans should take pro-active measures to protect themselves and their loved ones from disasters, the Minister for Emergency Management has said.
Germaine Kamayirese was speaking in Kigali this week ahead of the launch of a one-month national campaign designed to mitigate disasters.
Disasters claimed up to 70 people died across the country between January and September 2019, while 177 people were injured during the same period, according to official figures.
Some 4,095 houses were also damaged, while 6,708 hectares of crops were destroyed, and 167 domestic animals were killed.
The Ministry in charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) estimates that this year’s damages were worth about Rwf744 million, less than the losses suffered in each of the last two years.
In 2018, the country lost Rwf204 billion, and a whopping Rwf6.7 billion in 2017, to disasters.
The Disaster Risk Reduction Month, which runs through October 31, will run under the theme, ‘Build to last, my responsibility for disaster resilience’.
“During the campaign, we’ll construct houses for the vulnerable that are resistant to strong winds, tighten roofs of other housing units and work with citizens in planting trees countrywide,” Kamayirese said.
She added: “We will also create and improve on drainage systems and enhance rainwater-harvesting systems because water that is not controlled ends up causing disasters.”
Meanwhile, authorities at the City of Kigali are also undertaking efforts to mitigate disasters.
For instance, the city is carrying out an exercise of mapping sewerages that are more hazardous than others, Ernest Nsabimana, the Vice Mayor in charge of Urbanisation and Infrastructure, said.
He said the findings were expected to be released in a few days.
Kamayirese noted that working together, as a people, is key to addressing disasters.
“We want every resident of this country to be involved in this effort,” she said. “For instance, if you’re eight people at home, you should make it a goal to plant at least one tree per person. This also applies to schools and churches.”
“We can’t stop disasters but we can minimise damages by arming ourselves with knowledge on disaster risk reduction and preventing manmade disasters.”
An official from MINEMA told The New Times that “so far there is no target for the houses to be constructed, trees or drainage systems to be taken care of (during the campaign), because we are still waiting for districts to reply to our letters as the campaign will be conducted at the district level.”
Thousands of households still live in high-risk zones with Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) saying that over 48,000 householders were living in high-risk zones across the country –13,000 of them in Kigali — as of March 2019.
Among these, in July this year, 240 families were relocated from high-risk zones around the City of Kigali to Karama Integrated Model Village, while another 970 households outside Kigali were also relocated from risky zones by the end of June this year.