Flooding in Mutwanga
Floods on the DR Congo-Uganda border put thousands at risk of waterborne diseases.
Funding & Communications Manager – Medair DR Congo
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On the 21st of May, a violent rainstorm hit the south-east part of Mutwanga Health Zone, on the border between DR Congo and Uganda, causing widespread flooding.
The number of people affected by this disaster is estimated at between 42,000 and 47,000, with the rural commune of Lubiriha hit particularly hard.* Lives have been lost, and many houses have been swept away by the floodwaters. Moreover, the floods damaged several water sources and broke the pipes that supplied the town with safe drinking water.
From a first evaluation carried out by Medair’s technicians present in the field and by the Association des Consommateurs d’Eau Potable de Kasindi-Lubiriha (Kasindi-Lubiriha Association of Drinking Water Consumers) c.80-90% of the population cannot access safe drinking water in the five worst-hit districts. To cope with the situation, most families started to draw water directly from the river, with serious risks of contamination, especially as cholera was endemic in the area before the water systems were functional.
To respond to this emergency situation, we decided on a rapid intervention with the distribution of 3,960 Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) kits to households. The average household size is six people, so responding in this way would reach over 20,000 of the people with the most urgent and severe needs.
Marco Galli, Medair’s Project Coordinator in the area, warned, “Those drinking water directly from the river are at high risk of waterborne diseases, such as diarrhoea and cholera. We’re launching a rapid response that focuses on hand washing and making water safe to drink. To do this, we’re providing the hardest-hit families with kits containing cotton fabric for water filtration, water purification tablets, and antibacterial soap.”
“The current COVID-19 pandemic will make distribution more challenging,” Marco continued, “so we’re taking a dual approach that will reach those in need while respecting preventative measures for COVID-19: providing kits to people who come with diarrhoea or cholera symptoms at the health centre we’re supporting in Lubiriha, and also distributing directly to households in the community, while maintaining social distance.”
The flooding disaster in Mutwanga Health Zone comes at a time when DR Congo faces a series of crises: over five million people displaced from their homes, insecurity, severe food shortages, and lack of basic health services. Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, the country is still working to end an Ebola outbreak that has taken the lives of over 2,200 people.
Medair remains committed to providing appropriate and timely responses to these crises, saving lives and relieving suffering through provision of health and nutrition services, water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions, and strategic infrastructure projects.
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* Figures calculated based on an initial evaluation by Medair and a civil society organisation, the Association des Consommateurs d’Eau Potable de Kasindi-Lubiriha.