Uganda Floods Situation Report No. 3

Situation Report
Originally published
Ref: DHAGVA - 97/0871
Uganda - Floods/Landslides

DHA - Geneva Situation Report No. 3

12 December 1997

1. The UN Resident Coordinator in Kampala reports on the findings of the rapid assessment mission of the UN Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) dispatched on 1 December to the flood affected areas in eastern and western Uganda. The mission consisted of logisticians, agronomists, and program staff from UNDP, WFP, UNICEF, FAO's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS), and the Red Cross.

Background to the Floods Disaster:

2. Over the past three consecutive planting seasons, poorly distributed rains and very dry conditions were experienced in the eastern districts of Mbale, Kumi, Soroti, Pallisa, and Tororo and in the northern districts of Kotido, Moroto, and Kitgum, resulting in a 30-60 percent decline in food production and an abrupt increase in food prices. By the end of October 1997, however, the situation reversed itself. Although one month late, the second season rains were abundant in all areas except the northeast. Unfortunately, extraordinarily heavy rains continued well into November and had, by the end of the month, become torrential.

3. Highest rainfall levels were recorded on 18-19 November. Flash floods occurred within hours, overflowing the banks of the Suma, Lwakhakha, Ririni, and Malikisi tributaries. This in turn caused heavy silted Manafwa/Manafura, Sala and Nankwasi rivers to shift course, flooding the areas measuring some 20-40 meters from either bank and extending up to 80 km west and southwest from Mbale through Tororo ad Pallisa districts to Lakes Kyoga and Victoria. Hardest hit by river flooding were the cultivated areas in and around Doho, along the Manafwa river in northern Tororo.

4. Upstream, on the slopes of the Mt. Elgon mountain range, softened terrain, which was recently cultivated and lacks sufficient vegetation, slid into ravines and river gorges. As many as 100-150 slides throughout numerous canyons and gorges, and measuring some 100 meters in length, 30 meters across and 3-4 meters in depth, buried cultivated land, homes, and inhabitants in their path. Hardest hit by landslides were Bulucheke, Bubita, Bukigai, and Buwagogo in Manjiya county.

Preliminary Damage Estimates:

5. Preliminary damage estimates provided by the assessment team are listed below. The Ugandan Red Cross Society (URCS) is continuing its efforts to record the comprehensive and accurate figures on damage, which it is expected to take at least another two weeks to finalize.

- Persons affected: 50,000
- Fatalities: 33 (as of 28 November), with several others still missing/unaccounted for
- Housed destroyed: 674 (157 washed away, and 517 with irreparable damage)
- Homeless: 3,500 (estimated/deduced)
- Cropped area destroyed: over 2,000 hectares (estimated/deduced)
- Damaged maize: 3,500 mt (estimated/deduced)
- Schools damaged: 3 confirmed
- Bridges destroyed: 8 confirmed (rendering many affected areas inaccessible)
- others: water processing plant in Mbale slightly damaged and Busemebatya rail bridge destroyed.

6. In addition, it has been confirmed that the rail bridge at Busembatya, between Iganga and Tororo, collapsed, effectively cutting the rail link with Mombasa. The Ministry of Works, Transport and Communications is trying to have it repaired urgently. Presently, some 31 wagons loaded with WFP cereals and pulses are stranded at Malaba on the Kenyan side of the border.

Relief Assistance:

7. On 29 November, UNDMT dispatched the following relief items, consigned to the URCS warehouse in Mbale, in order to cover the basic needs of 10,000 persons for two weeks (5,000 for one month):

- UNICEF 300 cartons (3.6 mt) of high protein BP-5 biscuit, and 500 pieces of plastic sheeting
- WFP 68 mt of maizemeal, 30 mt of corn soya blend, 1.5 mt of sugar, 2.7 mt of beans, 1.2 mt of BP-5, HF/VHF radios, radio e-mail facilities, digital cameras, and satellite photos
- UNHCR 500 blankets
- URCS small quantities of plastic sheeting, soap, and food were prepositioned in Mbale.

8. These relief items are to be distributed, targeting female heads of the families displaced or made destitute by the floods or landslides, selected based on the distribution plan prepared by URCS. While most of the displaced managed to find refuge with relatives or friends, most of whom lack adequate resources themselves, URCS plans to target those unable to locate shelter and food and also to continue efforts to properly identify/register those who would be eventually forced to resettle from the houses of their temporary hosts.

Follow-Up Action:

9. It is generally estimated that rainfall will continue well into January 1998, especially in Mbale, Bundibugyo, and other mountainous areas, where more landslides and flooding can be expected over the next month. Local inhabitants are taking measures to move away from mountain slopes and from river basins. Communication/transport will remain a problem for the next 3-6 months, as the Ministry of Works waits for flood waters to recede and for erosion to cease before constructing foundations for new bridges. Steel girders/beams had already been prepositioned months ago for this purpose. Water rationing in Mbale is expected to continue for two weeks or until the processing plant can repaired.

10. Pending favorable weather, the relief supplies currently being provided are expected to be able to adequately cover the needs of the homeless for over one month or until mid-January 1998. However, the homeless and/or those who lost their crops and main source of livelihood are likely to remain dependent upon food assistance for several months until next harvest season.

11. No official request for international assistance has been received by DHA so far. Since this was an abrupt, medium-intensity disaster, localized and affecting a low fraction of the community, UNDMT recommends that URCS continues to address the needs of the affected, while closely monitoring the situation, with the view to consider further interventions if and when relief requirements exceed community or national capacities.

12. For coordination purposes, donors are requested to inform DHA Geneva, as indicated below, of relief missions, pledges or contributions and their corresponding values by item.

Telephone number: + 41 22 917 1234
In case of emergency only: + 41 22 917 2010
Desk Officer: Ms. Kayo Gotoh, direct tel: +41-22-917-1258
Contact for medias: Ms M. Moulin-Acevedo, direct tel: + 41 22 917 2856
Telex 41 42 42 dha ch
Fax: + 41 22 917 0023
E-mail: info at
DPR 310 UGA 97(1)