The March to May rainy season is here. Farmers have been busy ploughing their gardens, buying seeds and farming material amid calls from the ministry of Agriculture for them to wait for the rain to begin in earnest.
But as it usually is, the commencement of the rainy season is a double-edged sword. Whereas farmers celebrate and hope for steady rainfall enough to water their gardens and grazing land, for others it means the beginning of sleepless nights.
Already eight people in Buhweju District have fallen victim of the change of season. This was after a rainstorm hit Kyesika Cell in Katara Parish, Karungu Sub-county, at the weekend, causing landslides that claimed lives and destroyed property.
The Uganda Red Cross Society has issued a warning to people staying in hilly parts, especially in western Uganda, to move to safer areas. Meanwhile in eastern Uganda, Disaster Preparedness ministry this week dispatched a team to evaluate damage caused by windstorms in Butaleja District.
Around the Lake Victoria shoreline, residents are in panic as water levels are rising again at some landing sites. The water levels had only stabilised following last year’s prolonged and intense rainfall around East Africa that saw levels of water bodies go up, displacing many families in the process.
The cry by victims of these disasters is usually for relief from government. They usually accuse government of remaining silent about their plight with no meaningful support extended to them.
But it is worth celebrating that this week, government released the first national risk and vulnerability atlas, showing parts of the country that are prone to natural disasters.
The atlas identifies seven types of disasters that strike diverse parts of the country in different seasons. These include floods, drought, lightning, earthquakes, landslides, hailstorms and windstorms.
We can only hope that this atlas helps government in planning better for disasters. Because until now, Uganda does not have a relief budget and we usually depend on the goodwill of donors and humanitarian groups.
It is high time government set up a budget for disasters. The contingency funds we depend on from the ministry of Finance only serves to make sure we respond to disasters after they have happened.
Like in the case of Buhweju and Butaleja, it is not the first time that these disasters occur. And yet we know when the landslides and storms always occur.
Instead of firefighting, government should plan and budget around mitigating disasters before they happen.