Saturday, March 20, 2010

Landslide in Eastern Uganda

Crossing The Mudslide, by rebecca_genevive on Flickr
contributed by Jeyandini Fernando

This past weekend in New York City, the rains were deemed torrential and caused much damage to the suburban communities around the metropolitan area. Flights were cancelled, school children kept safe at home, and rescue crews worked to clean up the damage. Two days later, the sun is shining and we are all back to the daily routines that were on hold from the weather. Earlier this month, heavy rains caused brutal landslides in the Bududa region of Uganda. Except, 2 weeks later, everything is not back to normal.

Around 200,000 people live in the most affected area surrounding Mount Elgon; about 300 are expected to be dead. The locals, now “rescue workers,” are struggling to recover bodies under five, and sometimes ten, meters (16-32 feet) of mud. Entire villages have been renamed cemeteries. An estimation of when the mud can be cleaned up is impossible since the downpours continue in the rainy season. As the victims fall deeper, any hope of a proper burial or last rites disappears.

I remember the rain when I first got to Uganda. The rattle on the tin roof kept me up all night in fear of the apocalypse. But, during the days, the strings of raindrops that fell at ridiculous speeds looked like waterfalls in our little village. Twenty minutes later, all the green landscapes were showered with drops of dew. The beauty was breathtaking. I can’t imagine the scene now in eastern Uganda.

The dramatic change from two years ago is unimaginable. Experts say that the lack of land on level ground has forced families to move onto and around the mountains. The deforestation of trees and shrubs for agriculture has left the land untethered and free to wash down the mountainside, and at high speeds can sweep away unsuspecting local community members in a heartbeat.

It is in these moments of reminiscing that I realize how large an impact one summer volunteering in Uganda had on my life. That connection lasts forever. Our hearts go out to the Ugandan people of the Bududa region, just 70 miles from Iganga where our office is located.

View Iganga and Bududa Region in a larger map

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