Dispatch From Uganda: “Almost Total Crop Failure”

Uganda_damaged infrastructure from flood

Flooding in Uganda is submerging roads and swamping farmlands, drastically reducing food availability.
Photo by Astrid de Valon/Trocaire.

After assessing the situation in the badly affected sub-region of Teso, CRS Uganda’s country representative Jack Norman provides an update on the massive flooding in the north and east Uganda that has displaced approximately 50,000 households:

For the past 40 or so days, rain has been falling in many parts of Uganda during what is typically a dry harvesting time. Over time, the water has slowly risen, flooding fields and entering homes, with the rising waters becoming more dire in recent weeks.

Uganda_Houses flooded

Receding flood waters are allowing households to dry out belongings, but long-term impacts may be severe. Photo by Astrid de Valon/Trocaire.

CRS carried out a joint assessment mission with CAFOD, Trocaire, Caritas Uganda and local Catholic development partner SOCADIDO. In the areas we visited, a lot of the water has subsided, but many households have been living in six inches of standing water for the last month. We also saw almost total crop failure in some places due to the standing water in the fields.

Damaged bridges and flooded roads are cutting communities off from services. Even in the best of times, the clay roads are rough rides, but they serve as a lifeline for these people. It’s how they go to market, take children to school and get to the hospital. Now the roads have become impassable as the rains keep falling and the roads become submerged.

Fortunately there haven’t been many casualties; the few that occurred happened as people tried to cross a fast-flowing body of water running across the roadway. Entrepreneurs have stepped in with boats, charging a fee for people to cross flooded areas. But at around $1.20 a ride, it’s an insane amount of money for these very poor people to pay to cross what is sometimes only a distance of 30 feet or less.

The real emergency is the potential for an outbreak of water-borne diseases. Huge amounts of standing water are a perfect breeding ground for diseases such as malaria, cholera or dysentery. To avert such a health disaster, CRS and other Caritas agencies will focus on preventative health measures for both people and animals.

Uganda_rotted cassava from flooding

Standing water has rotted cassava yet to be harvested from fields, leaving families with little food to eat this season. Photo by Astrid de Valon/Trocaire.

In addition to health and sanitation trainings, CRS is planning to provide de-worming medications and vaccines to prevent livestock from contracting diseases in the standing water. Cattle are very important, as they support farming activities and serve as a type of ‘savings account,’ with owners being able to sell them in an emergency. Any loss of these animals would be devastating for a family.

Sadly, many of the affected families were previously displaced by incursions from the Lord’s Resistance Army from the north and more recently from increased banditry attacks from the east. Some families had just started to venture back to their farmlands and plant again after years of displacement. Now their crops are rotted, and they have lost both their food for this season and seeds for the coming season. It will likely not be until June when affected families can potentially harvest a crop again.

CRS is planning to provide $50,000, combined with $100,000 from Caritas Australia, to assist 2,300 households in Soroti district. These funds will enable SOCADIDO to undertake planned health initiatives and distribute emergency non-food items, including mosquito nets, water purification tablets, and jerry cans to store water safely.

CRS Uganda is continuing to work with partners to assess ongoing needs and plan longer-term recovery activities — which will be critical to help families survive the current crop failure and produce food in upcoming growing seasons.

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