Contextual Content

Flood disaster ravages Uganda

With no contingency plan in place, and a paltry budget, The Ugandan Ministry of Disaster Preparedness, was caught off balance. According to Emmanuel Gyehazo of the Ugandan newspaper, The Monitor, the government ignored a meteorological report warning of potential flood rains. Criticising the government's delayed reaction Gyehazo said, "like they say, until it rains don't believe what the weatherman says."

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Story Transcript

ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER/PRODUCER: Struggling to cope with the worst flooding in thirty-five years, Uganda declared a state of emergency on September 19, in the eastern and northern parts of the country. State authorities claim at least 49 dead and 400,000 displaced. Amongst the chaos, local reports are suggesting that the government was made aware of a potential flooding crisis but took no precautions. The Ugandan ministry of disaster preparedness has the smallest budget and no contingency plan for natural disasters. Local reporter Emmanuel Gyehazo believes this has added to the catastrophy.

EMMANUEL GYEHAZO, THE MONITOR, ON PHONE FROM KAMPALA, UGANDA: The meteorology department had forecast the torrential rains months before. The government didn’t heed to these calls. There were no preventive measures taken. A report from the meteorology department was swept under the carpet. Sources from the meteorology department confirm they had forwarded a report to the minister in charge of disaster preparedness, informing him. But, well, like they always say, until it rains, don’t believe what the weatherman says.

NKWETA: According to one of Gyehazo’s sources, the government may have exaggerated the magnitude of the disaster in order to acquire donor funding. Historically, Uganda has a checkered history of mismanaging relief funds. Minister Musa Ecweru did not deny these allegations.

MUSA ECWERU, UGANDAN MINISTER OF DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: I don’t want to sound so personal, but I want you to know that me, who is now coordinating this program, I am personally a victim. I mean, I am from the area, which is affected. I think it is … apart from just being responsible to the international community, I have a moral obligation to these people to ensure every bit of dime that comes for their sake, should reach them and take them out of this mess.

NKWETA: In addition to these statements, John English of the Red Cross and Red Crescent society refuted claims that the Ugandan government was acting in its own self-interest.

JOHN ENGLISH, RED CROS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETY: One of the feelings that we had at the beginning of the operation was that actually the situation was being played down by the government because it didn’t wish to look particularly bad in the eyes of the international community. And we are sure that whatever you put into Uganda will be spent for the purposes it was meant to.

NKWETA: According to the Red Cross, the international community, Ugandan government, and NGOs are working in tandem to make an accurate assessment of the situation. In the meantime bridges remain broken, roads and crops washed away, and once again, previously displaced people are without a home.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.