Fears for epidemics high as rains continue to batter west

RUBAVU - The continued influx of people who have fled their homes due to floods in parts of Western Province has increased fears for possible outbreak of epidemic diseases. By yesterday, flood levels were still rising as more rains continued to hit the districts of Rubavu and Nyabihu. More people evacuated on Monday in Kazenze Sector, Nyabihu District as their houses go submerged by the floods. According to Kanzenze Sector Coordinator Felicien Kanzendebe, the situation is well beyond the capacity of both the affected districts.
Leaving behind damaged property and submerged homes, two children move to safer ground on Tuesday. Flood levels have continued to rise in parts of Western Province a week after torrential rains killed 15 people in Nyabihu District. (Photo/ G. Barya)
Leaving behind damaged property and submerged homes, two children move to safer ground on Tuesday. Flood levels have continued to rise in parts of Western Province a week after torrential rains killed 15 people in Nyabihu District. (Photo/ G. Barya)

RUBAVU - The continued influx of people who have fled their homes due to floods in parts of Western Province has increased fears for possible outbreak of epidemic diseases. By yesterday, flood levels were still rising as more rains continued to hit the districts of Rubavu and Nyabihu. More people evacuated on Monday in Kazenze Sector, Nyabihu District as their houses go submerged by the floods. According to Kanzenze Sector Coordinator Felicien Kanzendebe, the situation is well beyond the capacity of both the affected districts.

He said that 2,734 people had been evacuated to Nkamira camp in Rubavu District. The camp also has 1596 Congolese refugees.

“With the current outbreak of Ebola in the neighboring (DR) Congo from where people have been coming until recently, there are serious health concerns,” he said.

He added that despite the fact that the displaced flood victims live in separate camps with the Congolese refugees, their children share the same playground.

Red Cross which is hitherto the only humanitarian organisation assisting the affected people is concerned with provision of basic supplies whereas the district authorities are devising means of resettling those displaced and providing them with food.

Among the main problems is that of school children who are likely to miss classes for the rest of the term. “We have not done anything yet to get children back to school because there are still more pressing problems to attend to. We have to first move those displaced to temporary camps in Nkamira, Bigogwe where we are currently installing tents,” said John Bosco Musana, the coordinator of Red Cross in the province.

On food shortage, Musana said that a recent meeting with World Food Programme had recognized the need for humanitarian food supplies, but that no promise had been made.

“We had a meeting with World Food Programme officials; they took statistics of the displaced people but up to now they have not promised anything,” he said.

When contacted, Nyabihu district mayor Charles Ngirabatware admitted the needs were beyond his district capacity but said that he was working closely with the provincial governor Penelope Kantarama and mayors of non-affected districts to come up with both financial and food assistance.

“I think other districts’ assistance will be of great importance in meeting most of the needs,” he said.

However, Ngirabatware, whose district was most hit by the torrential rains that started last week said that  central government officials who are also trying to help in various ways. The district lost 15 people on September 12 due to floods.

“We have received officials from the Ministry of Health trying to provide medical support to the victims and we are working on resettling them in Bigogwe Sector where we procured land from SOPYIRWA (a pyrethrum processing industry). Soon the situation will be back to normal,” Ngirabatware said.

He said they are still searching for more people who could have been buried under the collapsed structures.

“This district is known to be very fertile and therefore many people come here to work on plantations some of whose identities are not known,” he said. The central government promised to provide iron sheets to the displaced persons.

At least 1,000 houses are reported to have been destroyed following the heavy rains in the two districts. Experts have warned that the East African region could face torrential rains in the coming months.
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