Rainy season in Rwanda is here to stay, and damages behind it have become a big concern with more than 200 victims in the last four months.
After a landslide where 18 lost lives in Karongi, district, Rwankuba sector in Western Rwanda last week, it has become obvious that some parts of the country are the most exposed, thus, an urgent evacuation.
The city of Kigali, on May 9 started a plan to evacuate its dwellers that are located in high-risk zones with immediate effect. The most affected are slums which make 60% of the green Kigali city.
The campaign started with Nyarugenge district, Kimisagara sector which has residential neighbourhoods on steep slopes.
Already, 140 households from 6 villages were found most exposed and required to relocate without further due.
“Imagine we could leave one place after ordering quick evacuation to three families and we learn that three more houses have collapsed,” Charles Vuguziga, executive secretary of Kimisagara sector said.
“We could be standing in front of a house and we see it collapsing.”
Slums in Kigali are mainly built with very fragile construction materials, including muddy bricks which, in some instances do not have a strong foundation and a roof with decayed iron sheets.
The slums are susceptible to flood in several ways; for example, when one house collapses, remains destroy neighboring houses which are built in disorder.
As Kimisagara slums are concerned, the steep slop intensifies erosion. Moreover, heavy storms do not spare the roof.
Rescue of citizens in high risk zone is not a particularity of Kigali city, it is rather a national program.
While visiting survivors of the Rwankuba landslide on May 9, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said that the government has put in place a task force that is in charge of identifying households in high risk of disasters so that they are also relocated as part of disaster mitigation.
“We have started with recent black spots in Karongi district, Rutsiro and others will follow,” Ngirente said pledging government support to the survivors.
On May 8-9, Ngirente was in the Western Province and Nothern Province to console survivors of the disasters. He visited Karongi, Ngororero and Burera districts.
He was accompanied with several cabinet ministers; Vincent Biruta of environment, Jeanne d’Arc de Bonheur of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs and Francis Kaboneka of Local Government.
“We cannot sit back when the country is losing her citizens to disaster every other day. We have launched a national program to identify people at risk. We shall offer them temporal shelter and later on, find permanent home wherever applicable,” Minister De Bonheur said.
A holistic risk mitigation approach
The government has accompanied the families of victims. For example, De Bonheur said, families of the victims were given an envelope of Rwf 50,000 for every family member they lost.
On top of this, they were provided with basic tool kits including; hygiene equipment, bed cover and food for at least 2 months depending on the needs.
They were also supported with iron sheets while those who needed medication were transported to the hospital. The district supported medication for the needy.
The government, she said, has spent Rwf 348 Million on all this support since January 2018.
More is also expected. Survivors whose houses are beyond repair are being sheltered in rented houses for the next 2 months.
This also applies to those that are being evacuated in Kigali and across the country, but are not able to cater for a shelter.
The program is meeting some resistance in city of Kigali where people fear to leave their house when renting could cost them in the future.
“When we look at figures of victims and other losses, none should be wishing to stay in high risk. You know, land has now become very fragile. We need to pay much more attention,” De Bonheur said.
Meanwhile, a task force of the Prime Minister is carrying their outreach mission at the district level to work with districts in identifying people who have to relocate immediately and to suggest sites where their model houses would be built.