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Landslide in eastern Uganda leaves 77 dead and hundreds missing

© UNICEF Uganda/2010/Chulho Hyun
A group of children and a man carrying a mattress move away from the Nametsi Village landslide site in Uganda.

BUDADA DISTRICT, UGANDA, 8 MARCH 2010 – A swift, deadly landslide buried three villages in Budada District, in eastern Uganga, on 1 March, killing 77 people and leaving some 2,000 others displaced.

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No time to react
Residents of Budada District – located 300 kilometers east of Kampala and deep inside the Mount Elgon range – simply did not have time to react. The force of the mud and rocks, tumbling down from 700 meters above, engulfed almost everything in their path.

Chulho Hyun, UNICEF Communication Chief in Uganda, visited the destroyed Nametsi Village soon after the landslide. "Walking around the area, there were remains of livestock in the mud,” he said. “The entire side of the mountain had just literally fallen down.”

Along the hillside, soldiers, rescue teams and community members continue to pull bodies from the mud. Some 300 people across the affected district are still missing.

© UNICEF Uganda/2010/Chulho Hyun
A group of women and children near Uganda’s Nametsi Village.

Life-saving assistance
In the immediate aftermath of the landslide, UNICEF sent emergency supplies and an assessment team to Bududa District.

“The current plan is to bring [residents] closer down to safer ground, away from the risk-prone areas,” said Mr. Hyun, adding that displaced residents are being housed in two temporary settlements in nearby towns.

In the initial stages of the effort, relief workers are focusing on the provision of life-saving health, water and emergency supplies.

To date, approximately $152,000 worth of supplies has been dispatched to the affected areas – including equipment to treat wounds, eye infections, diarrhoea and other diseases. UNICEF is also providing family kits that contain tents, blankets, soap and cooking utensils.

Distribution of these non-food items has been ongoing, aided by the efforts of the Uganda Red Cross.

Facing displacement in the rainy season
Heavy rains across the region have raised additional concerns for relief workers.

“It is still the rainy season,” said Mr. Hyun. “It gets very cold here at night.”

Continued rain means that additional landslides are possible, as is flooding in the areas further down the mountains.

In response, the Government is urging those living on the mountains to move to safer ground, but many of these families cannot afford to leave, or are reluctant to abandon homesteads that have been in their families for generations. Like the displaced in the temporary camps below, their situation has become precarious, and the rains continue to fall.

Melissa Gorelick contributed to this story from New York.




UNICEF Radio spoke with Chulho Hyun, UNICEF Communication Chief in Uganda, about the ongoing relief efforts for those affected by the landslide.
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