Updated: Feb 10
The past few months have been very trying for many individuals and countries at large, with the COVID-19 pandemic composing a big part of the conversations we have today. Various measures have been put in place to enforce control despite the multitude of uncertainties and controversies that surround it. At the center of it is the disruption it has had on our way of life and social interactions, with the general consensus about this situation being the urge for our nations to achieve a sense of the normalcy that we had before and the routines we once considered to be mundane.
A lot of attention and generous funds have been channeled to the COVID-19 response with good reason - loss of lives and disruption of livelihoods. It is however important to pay attention to other natural disasters happening today which have historically been both fatal and disruptive to human life. In the case of Uganda, hundreds of families have been displaced in Busia, Kasese, Kween, Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts due to landslides, flash floods and rivers bursting their banks. These have led to the destruction of personal property, roads, bridges and power outages not to mention the inherent fatalities and impending disease outbreaks such as cholera. Fortunately, the Uganda Red Cross Society has been at the frontline of these disasters, providing aid and relief to the affected people to complement the government's effort.
Buildings damaged by floods in Kilembe, Kasese
More displacements have been reported in the Lake Victoria area as a result of the increase in the volume of water in the lake. Its previously dry shores have increasingly been engulfed with water which has moved more than 13 meters ashore, the highest recorded since 1964. The most affected communities are those on the lake’s shores and on the many islands in the lake, with some risking being submerged. It doesn’t help that Uganda and Kenya relations have soured, after the latter sued the former for opening its dams’ spillways due to the rise in water levels. Uganda has also had to deal with floating Islands which have threatened to annihilate the country’s power grid. A lot needs to be done to study the historical movement of these islands and why they are moving now more than ever; and also offer spatial considerations to remedies.
Open spill water gates at Nalubaale Hydro Power dam in Uganda
due to high water levels in Lake Victoria (Henry Lutaaya)
A step in the right direction is to collate all the geospatial data available about the aforementioned events to properly estimate the extent of damage and the people who have been affected. Whereas this data may be available, a few questions that should run at the back of our minds are: Is this data updated? Have these areas been adequately mapped?
The extent of support that we extend to our communities more often than not goes beyond what is making world news. This is something that we as YouthMappers need to keep in mind while we contribute to the amelioration of our communities. The milestones we have reached over the years cannot be underscored and therefore, the onus is on us to support the responsible bodies in our home countries with actionable information since it is more of a matter of when than if these imminent dangers happen.