Rwandans and development partners should jointly work toward systematic and sustainable disaster preparedness and resilience to save lives and property lost annually in disasters induced largely by climate change, Seraphine Mukantabana, the minister for disaster management and refugee affairs, has said.
Mukantabana was on Thursday speaking in Ngororero District at an event to mark the International Disaster Risk Reduction Day.
In Rwanda, the day coincided with the launch of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Week, that runs up to October 19 under the theme, “Prevent disasters by settling in safer zones.”
Between January and September, disasters have claimed lives of 166 people, injured 136, destroyed 4,611 houses and damaged crops on 5,388 hectares of land, according to statistics from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR).
These and other different forms of damages are, according to MIDIMAR, worth over Rwf27 billion.
“If we can prevent disasters, we can save that money,” the minister said, noting however that the people who died due to disasters are irreplaceable.
Ngororero District itself lost six people due to disasters and had 505 houses destroyed by disasters last year, according Mayor Godefroid Ndayambaje.
“What is noticeable is that, through our partnership as a whole, we should focus on preventing disasters instead of always tackling their effects.
“If we do all the required actions to prevent disasters, where we would be spending $100 (about Rwf80,000) for rescue and other forms of interventions, we would only spend $1 (about Rwf800),” Mukantabana said.
The minister said the Government, through MIDIMAR and other organs, has offered support to the people affected by the disasters.
She said living in high risk zones does not only refer to being settled on mountainous areas, but includes people who live in weak housing that cannot stand firm in the wake of strong winds and rains.
As part of the celebration of the day, MIDIMAR officials joined the Western Province and Ngororero leaders and residents to carry out a special Umuganda (community service) that entailed clearing plots on which a disaster resilient village will be built.
The new disaster resilient village is located on Kigali Hill in Matyazo Sector and it is estimated to cost over Rwf2.2 billion.
The village will consist of 25 four-in-one housing units, with each house accommodating four families, according to Mayor Ndayambaje, who said construction of the houses is due to be completed in June 2017.
Minister Mukantabana said about 20,580 families in the country need to be relocated from high risk zones, of which 19,000 have been identified to have the capacity of getting shelter elsewhere, while others will need help.
“I live in a high risk zone, on a slope. My house is on the verge of being blown away by winds but I cannot afford to relocate. I really need support,” said Consolata Nkorerimana, a mother of five from Binana Cell in Matyazo Sector.
Vulnerable people who cannot afford decent resettlement will be supported by the Government, , the minister said.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction Week will include a series of activities to raise the public’s awareness on socio-economic and environmental effects of disasters.
The activities include building houses for people who were relocated from disaster prone areas in various parts of the country, and repair of houses and monitoring them to ensure that they remain firm.
Other activities include planting trees on slope mountains to retain soil and reduce the intensity of wind.
Mukantabana encouraged investors, development partners and residents to read, understand and consider the recommendations from the National Risk Atlas of Rwanda, a publication that provides information on five main hazards mostly impacting Rwanda; droughts, floods, landslides, earthquakes and windstorms, which were selected basing on their economic and social negative impacts on the development of the country, before setting up any development activity.
She added that the risk atlas, published in English, will be translated into other languages Rwandans understand, starting with Kinyarwanda.