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Residents looking at their homes that were destroyed by River Nyamwamba floods

Kasese|CANUNews|20. March. 2021 by Colline Saabwe, CAN-Uganda

Since 2013, Kasese District in the Rwenzori sub-region has been grappling with floods that often cause river banks to burst. The increase in heavy rainfall is attributed to the changing climate patterns and rapid loss of forest cover, due to trees being cut down to be used as fuel.

On May 10th 2020, amidst COVID-19 lock-down and restrictions that were established by the government of Uganda in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, communities living around Mt. Rwenzori suffered a double tragedy when heavy rains caused a massive destruction to property and lives. The banks of rivers Nyamwamba and Mubuk burst and caused flooding to nearby households, hospitals, gardens and destroyed livelihoods. Kilembe mines hospital too was destroyed and a number of households were displaced. Today over 1500 households are displaced and live in makeshift arrangements.

As these communities are grappling with the socio-economic losses due to floods and flood risk, they are as well faced with the adverse impacts of COVID-19 that include job loss, distortion to education and health system. Their livelihoods are faced with a double jeopardy and therefore require accelerated efforts by key players to enable them recover from the crises of climate change and COVID-19.

Climate Action Network Uganda in partnership with KARUCAN, a Community Based Organisation (CBO) based in Kasese district organised a one-day all-inclusive community dialogue and knowledge exchange meeting on Friday 5th March 2021 at Kanyengeye Church of Uganda, Nyamwamba Division, Kasese Municipality.  The dialogue aimed at bringing together a well-structured platform from which to identify challenges and implement solutions for climate change issues that affect the climate hotspot communities of Kasese in Western Uganda.

Speaking at the event, Miriam Talwisa, the National Coordinator of Climate Action Network Uganda informed the meeting that Climate Action Network is shifting focus to ensure that climate impacts and the people at the front-lines of climate impacts are brought to the climate change policy negotiating tables in Uganda.

” This is a spring board to further engagement and advocacy on the key issues that are climate related and affecting the communities in Kasese. The Kasese climate story can be best told by you the people who live with it on a daily basis” said Miriam Talwisa

According to the area Local Council 3 (LC3) Chairman Elect, the problem of flooding in the area is caused by the failure to de-silt Rivers Nyamwamba and Mubuku and the closure of Kilembe Copper Mines which was consuming most of the underground water by using it to process the copper.

” All efforts to deal with the problem have failed including a planned de-silting of River Nyamwamba by government in 2018 and other planned projects of conservation in the area”, said the LC3 Chairman

“Our most pressing needs are resettlement, hygiene and making sure that we live the make shift camp in Muhookya where we are living right now so that we can go back to work and be able to recover our livelihoods. We want to have that space to talk to the leaders at the district and national government to respond to our problem and urgent needs.” said Nelson Kasaija of KARUCAN

A participant from the community speaking at the meeting

The most urgent issue right now is to resettle the affected people in a safer area where they can be able to derive meaningful livelihoods by engaging in agriculture and sustainable businesses.

The participants agreed to start a neighbourhood network for flood survivors in Kasese to continue advocating and engaging leaders and other community members in order to limit future loss and damage due to floods and ensure action takes place at community level. Climate Action Network Uganda committed to support the initiative and continue to engage at community, district and national level.

This work is part of a Project on Participatory Nationally Determined Contributions in the face of COVID-19 which is financially and technically supported by German Cooperation and CARE Germany with technical advisory and support from Climate Action Network International