Over 20,000 evacuated from high risk zones

The government has reaffirmed commitment to resettle all people residing in disaster-prone areas countrywide as the rainy season approaches.
Houses built in high-risk zones on the slopes of a hill. Such settlements are susceptible to mudslides during heavy rains. The New Times/Timothy Kisambira.
Houses built in high-risk zones on the slopes of a hill. Such settlements are susceptible to mudslides during heavy rains. The New Times/Timothy Kisambira.

The government has reaffirmed commitment to resettle all people residing in disaster-prone areas countrywide as the rainy season approaches.

According to Augustin Kampayana, the head of the Rural Settlement Taskforce in the Ministry of Local Government, the exercise is making good progress despite threats of the rains striking before the deadline set by the department.

 

“By the end of July, we had constructed houses for 20,548 families out of 47,680 residing in areas regarded as prone to disasters across the country,” he said.

 

Kampayana said despite persistent calls from government to vacate high risk zones, some dwellers remain adamant, especially those who are capable of building their own houses in safe areas.

 

Last year, 75 people died from disasters in risky zone areas. This year alone, 58 people have died, which has prompted the government to resettle the high-risk zone dwellers.

Priority relocation

The government allocated Rwf6.5 billion toward the relocation of people in the disaster prone areas. However, the most vulnerable are the ones to benefit from the support in terms of housing facilities.

Kampayana cited Muhanga District where out of more than 12,000 people in high-risk zones, about 3,000 have been given new homes in safer areas.

“We are now worried because the rainy season is approaching. We are putting our focus on the people living in the most high-risk zones ahead of September deadline,” he said.

According to the Ministry of Local Government, about 20 districts have people living in high-risk zones although some are more prone to disasters than others.

The families to be supported by government were identified and categorised in collaboration with grassroots leaders through the Ubudehe classification programme.

Warning systems

Séraphine Mukantabana, the minister for disaster management and refugee affairs, said they are in touch with every district to ensure that people in disaster zones resettled in safer areas before the deadline.

“We are embarking on a campaign to ensure that relocation is implemented and nobody will be allowed to stay in disaster-prone areas. There are people who don’t want to be relocated but we are putting much effort to make sure that they relocate to safer areas,” Mukantabana said.

The minister said they have installed disaster communication system for early warnings.

She warned people resisting relocation, saying the relocation was for own safety.

Last week, the Rwanda Meteorology Agency indicated in their weather forecasts that the period of August to October will experience near-normal or slightly above normal rainfall across the country.

The agency warned that the prediction should not be used in isolation of “more detailed forecasts and warnings that are available from the agency.

Rusizi District in Western Province is expected to experience the heaviest rain of up to 352mm, while Ngoma District in Eastern Province will have the least with 191mm of rainfall.

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