KIGALI - South African music legend Yvone Chaka Chaka has saluted the resilience of the victims of this month’s earthquakes in the western provincial districts of Rusizi and Nyamasheke. Chaka Chaka, who was earlier this week in Rwanda in her capacity as a Unicef goodwill ambassador, said those displaced and heavily affected by the earthquakes had shown determination to recover from the disaster. Two strong quakes hit the two districts hours apart on February 3 leaving close to forty people dead and destroying property whose value the Government has put at over Frw5 billion. Another person died days later after a third quake hit the same region.
Chaka Chaka, 41, who had last visited Rwanda in November last year as a guest singer during Kigali City’s centenary celebrations, this week visited the two stricken districts in a move aimed at highlighting Unicef’s efforts in helping the affected people return to normal.
“I was inspired by the spirit of the people in Cyangugu (in Rusizi District) to pick themselves up, build tents for classrooms and move on with their lives,” Chaka Chaka told journalists at Kigali Serena Hotel on Tuesday.
Chaka Chaka, dubbed “The Princess of Africa” is the Goodwill Ambassador of the UN agency for Eastern and Southern Africa.
UNICEF Country Representative to Rwanda, Joseph Foumbi, acknowledged efforts by the Government of Rwanda to help rebuild the affected regions, saying: “It is very good to have a government that responds to emergencies urgently.”
The Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, whose office oversees disaster preparedness programmes, earlier this week returned from the affected areas to assess the situation on the ground.
Foumbi also paid tribute to such organizations as Imbuto Foundation – a charity organization established by the First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame – which has been at the forefront of advocating for humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.
Mrs Kagame herself traveled with Chaka Chaka to the affected regions in both Rusizi and Nyamasheke districts on Monday. The Unicef envoy said that areas that were badly hit by the earthquakes are still grappling with the consequences.
He cited education as one of the sectors badly affected by the quakes. Thousands of students and pupils in the affected areas have not resumed school, after their school structures were left in ruins by the catastrophe.
Esperance Umutoni, the Vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs in Rusizi District commended the Government for taking a swift action to address the problem.
“The Government responded quickly in saving lives. They sent a chopper in less than 30 minutes (after the first earthquake) which brought in doctors and transferred badly wounded victims to King Faisal Hospital (in Kigali).”
She added that just hours after the disaster, a team of cabinet ministers was also dispatched to the region to assess the damage and to urge calm among the survivors.
Chaka Chaka, who boasts a music career spanning over 20 years, appealed to all Rwandans to help contribute emergency relief to the victims of the earthquakes.
“Everyone in the society has a role to play; anyone can do something. It does not have to be Angelina Jolie or Chaka Chaka to organise a charity concert or anything. We can all help; we are all equal and we can do different things to help,” Chaka said.
Unicef, working within the framework of ‘One UN’ programme has responded to the emergency situation in the two districts through providing medical supplies, tents, iron sheets, household items, classroom sanitation, clean water, among other relief supplies.
While in the region, Mrs Kagame and Chaka Chaka toured makeshift school structures built at the support of Unicef. The earthquakes left an estimated 30,000 children out of school, and destroyed twenty primary schools and four secondary schools.
Chaka Chaka left the country yesterday.