The East African region’s major newspapers, including this very newspaper, all carried editorials talking about the need to make fresh strategies for combating disasters. The major focus was on drought, and also on the heavy rains that have caused untold suffering in the region. On Rwandan soil, Nyabihu District has taken a terrible bashing in the past two days, with 15 people dead and thousands displaced by incessant rain that has washed away both crops and houses.
It is not for nothing that the region’s media thinks as one, and writes about the need to re-evaluate our preparedness to face up to such challenges. Chinua Achebe in his ‘Things Fall Apart’ says that when you see a frog running across your compound in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life.
If the regions of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri suffered a similar fate last year, then something big and unprecedented should be done to curtail any further loss of life and homes resulting from heavy rains.
Pretty little can be done about barring crops from being washed away, because they cannot be put elsewhere other than where there are prospects of better harvests. But something can definitely be done about people constructing houses and making homes literally in the paths of roaring torrents on their downward rush to gravity.
People dwelling in the mountainous areas could be moved into well-planned imidugudu where they can benefit from better planned sites and houses that meet construction engineers’ standards.
Local leaders should stop people from perching their poorly-constructed houses on hillsides; this is recipe for disaster, as these are actually the houses that are always washed down and cause loss of life in the process.
NGOs that rush to the aid of sufferers are wholesomely thanked, but they should start thinking in terms of sustainable solutions rather than holding ones.
Then there is the complaint registered by the mayor of Nyabihu, Charles Ngirabatware, that the mindless depletion of Gishwati forest has had a disastrous effect on the environment, and actually blames the floods on this deforestation.
This forest should be rejuvenated as a matter of urgency, for the effects of deforestation are numerous, including desertification.
We surely need super plans in addressing rain and drought disasters.