Kasese landslide survivors set up committee to monitor cracks to save lives
One such camp committee member is 10-year-old Immaculate Biira, a Primary Two Pupil at Kanone Primary School.
Kilembe in western Uganda became famous for its rich deposits of copper. For many years, academic programmes included studies and even tours of the mines. Located in the ranges of Rwenzori Mountain, the designers of academic courses never talked much about River Nyamwamba. Probably angry for being sidelined for many years and playing second fiddle to its more famous cousin, the Rwenzori Mountains, and even the human-made Kilembe mines, River Nyamwamba has been in foul mood in the last few years; destroying everything in its path and beyond.
Boulders, some the size of a midsized lorry, have left many people homeless and many others dead. Food crops and livestock are not spared either. Their movement downhill into the valleys leave cracks that cause deadly landslides. The people who live in the highlands of Rwenzori in Kasese District have had to run for their lives, ending up camping in temporary facilities or turning schools and churches into places of abode.
One such school is Kanone Primary School in Busongora South constituency in Kasese District. Perched atop one of the many hills that form the Rwenzori ranges, the school houses families that have been made homeless by landslides that affected their area during the May 2023 rain season. This internally displaced people camp, established by Kasese District Local Government, is now home to 113 children and 159 adults. Classrooms, built by mud and wattle, are now homes to these people.
Although the landslides have swept away houses, gardens and even livestock, the community in Kanone has been a bit lucky not to lose any human lives, prompting them to become proactive in dealing with the effects of their terrain. “We have set up a committee that helps to monitor cracks and prepare people to move to safer areas,” reveals Alfred Masereka, the chairperson of the village-level administrative structure known as Local Council I (LCI). “If a member realizes danger, they can make an alarm and others join in so the entire community gets to know,” Safi Kule, the LCI General Secretary interjects while other community members demonstrate how the alarm is made.
Once people arrive at the camp, a committee that has been set up inducts them. One such camp committee member is 10-year-old Immaculate Biira, a Primary Two Pupil at Kanone Primary School.
Biira specifically sits on the committee to handle children’s issues from their perspective. “I talk to the children when they get here so that they can cope with living in the camp and in case parents have gone to look for food, I ask other parents to give the child food,” she explains. “Also, we don’t play as we used to do, so I explain it to them,” Biira further explains with a level of maturity that is beyond her tender age. “The classrooms are also not enough but as children we understand these challenges and we manage to share,” she emphasizes.
Life would have been more difficult hadn’t UNICEF come in to provide some relief. With support from UKaid and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UNICEF has provided temporary shelter which has been turned into classrooms. Also, the community was supported with other essentials.
“UNICEF is providing life-saving services to more than 10,000 people in Kasese District. This way, we are ensuring that no child is left behind because of these disasters,” explains Philip Limlim, the Chief, UNICEF Mbarara Field Office. The community in Kanone has been provided with mobile toilets, hand washing facilities, laundry soap, boxes of aqua tabs (water purification tablets), bottles of liquid soap, tarpaulins, and jerricans among others.
Biira was worried about the relocation of people from their homes into the school. “I was worried that we will not be able to attend school again but the tarpaulins have been useful. We at least attend school even though it is still a rainy season,” she says.
Laumida Hungo, the chairperson of the camp committee urges unity for the betterment of the camp. “Now that we have received some support from UNICEF and the district, we need to be united and work together to practice what is necessary such as proper hand hygiene so that we can remain safe because this is now our home,” she explains.
By incorporating children such as Biira on the camp committee, the community in Kanone is instituting measures that are necessary in protecting children as they grapple with the challenges of losing their homes and livelihoods to landslides.