Bodies of at least 30 people have already been recovered from the flood waters around the town of Mbale at the foot of Mount Elgon in Eastern Uganda, including those of two 6-year-old children found today. Hundreds of thousands of people have been cut off from their fresh water supply and sewages have been damaged, triggering concerns about disease outbreaks, WaterAid said.
Forecasters predict the heavy rain will continue through August. But it’s estimated that 5,600 have been displaced from Mbale City alone and 400,000 people have already been cut off from the national water grid. Latrines and sewage systems have been damaged, polluting the environment. Furthermore, food shortages could result from 5000 acres of crops being destroyed.
WaterAid has expressed deep concern at the human cost of this latest environmental tragedy in an area where they have recently completed a project to build community resilience to climate shocks for water and sanitation.
Jane Mselle Sembuche, the Country Director for WaterAid Uganda said: “With limited access to essential health care services for submerged areas, consequences of unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are bound to cause a cocktail of diarrheal diseases. Malnutrition is projected to set in as many families have lost their source of livelihood – crops, and livestock. The trend of events might spark cases of domestic violence and social imbalance.”
The Mbale city response team is currently organising 200 mobile toilets, hand washing facilities and water treatment tablets.
Sembuche calls for a greater focus on safeguarding communities from such climate events. “People need water, sanitation and hygiene to thrive – without these basics, they can’t be resilient to anything. That means we need to protect WASH facilities from climate change impacts where possible and strengthen community resilience from these extreme weather events. This will help them bounce back from climate change disasters more quickly.”
“We need a much greater focus on sustainable, resilient sanitation when working on climate change adaptation,” she added.
Further north, the Karamoja region of Uganda has been affected by the severe drought which has mainly impacted the Horn of Africa. “These are the kind of future challenges of either floods or drought which we are increasingly facing,” said Sembuche. “It is truly time to act now - and invest in adaptation measures for those living on the frontline of the climate crisis.”
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