Update: Tragedy in Bududa

It is 3 days now since the tragedy in Bududa.

In those three days, people who survived the landslide have been living in a stupor – wondering why they survived, and where to begin.  The survivors know they are lucky. An REACH student survived only because she was still on her way home after a late day at school.  We fear that her family, including 6 siblings, were not so fortunate.  Another local student survived because he refused the entreaties of his friends to take shelter in the local clinic from the torrential downpour. He wanted to reach home quickly to get something to eat because he was hungry. His friends who took shelter in the clinic all died. A husband who had stayed late in a bar was the only person who survived in his family. A shop owner who heard the first sound of the rolling soil ran away from his house. Unfortunately, many children were at his house and all perished. And we have seen pictures of a compound split into two – people who lived in one half survived, the other half died. Those who survived are now being asked to move 12 miles away to live in a campsite.

The government is worried that more landslides will follow as the rains keep coming. Twelve miles may not look too far for our friends in America, but in this village, there are many people who have never left the village or traveled that far. Everyone they know lives in the village, and their lives center around it. They are reluctant to leave it all and go to a “foreign” place to start anew. But the government has directed they must leave, so they will. About 10,000 people will evacuate, according to government estimates.  They expect the resettlement to take 3 months.

The needs of these communities are enormous. They will go into the camps without any personal property.  The most urgent needs are for food, basic utensils and cooking equipment, blankets and clothing, water purification equipment, and first aid kits. A number of local relief agencies are working in the area and delivering some of the supplies but of course, there can never be enough. Delivering these supplies in itself will be difficult because according to reports, flooding rivers have cut off some of the small roads in the villages. One report today said vehicles stop about 7.5 miles away and relief workers walk the rest of the way. Torrential rain continues to fall in the eastern portion of Uganda and more landslides continue to be a risk.

We are in constant contact with the school.  Although it will take a long time for the full ramifications of this tragedy to become evident, REACH staff is committed to working with government and community leaders to find a way to help the community.

– John Wanda

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