District Disaster Management Committees (DDMCs) in the Rwenzori region are ill-prepared to handle disasters in case they strike.
The Rwenzori region is prone to disasters like landslides, floods and earthquakes. However in some districts disaster management committees are not fully established, and where they exist, they remain weak, with very meager or no funding.
Last week, floods hit Kasese district washing away several bridges, cutting off roads and displacing hundreds of people. In Fort Portal, over the past two weeks, River Mpanga has burst its banks and destroyed merchandise of traders at the nearby Mpanga Market and destroyed a bridge which leads customers to the market.
Robert Mwesigwa, a member of the Bundibugyo district DDMC, says that the committee is there by name but has practically done nothing since being formed three years ago. He says that the committee has failed to do any work, despite the occurrence of landslides in some parts of the district.
Mwesigwa says that they are supposed to carry out sensitization on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in communities who live in mountainous areas, on the best environmental practices like reforestation and terraces and how they should respond appropriately incase disaster strikes.
Moses Karamagi, a member of Kabarole DDMC says the committee lacks funds for community risk awareness campaigns through FM radio stations in the region.
Francis Kugonza, a resident of Fort Portal says that the committees should be availed with resources in advance and not to wait for disasters to strike. Kugonza says members of the community should also be told what to do incase disaster strike.
//Cue in: “It’s high time…
Cue out: …worst to happen.”//
In Kyenjojo and Kamwenge, the committees don't exist.
In a telephone interview, David Mutebi, the Commissioner in-charge disaster preparedness and management in the Ministry for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, says that government will in the next financial year deploy disaster risk-reduction officers in disaster-prone areas in the country.
Mutebi says that the officers will supplement the work of the district disaster committees. Mutebi also hopes more funds will be allocated for disaster management in the 2013/2014 financial year budget to support the work of the district disaster committees.
In 2010, the government developed the National Policy for disaster preparedness and management.
According to the policy, the district disaster committees are supposed to educate the public on floods and other man-made or natural hazards, ensure protective steps are taken to minimize impact of disasters and make arrangements for emergency action to effect evacuation from the affected villages when necessary.