More from the heart of the Kagera quake

Wednesday September 21 2016

People found sleeping outside on the wee hours

People found sleeping outside on the wee hours yesterday at Hamugembe Ward in Bukoba District. Victims of the quake continue asking for more help. PHOTO | SYRIACUS BUGUZI 

By Syriacus Buguzi @buguzi

Bukoba. Nearly two weeks after the Kagera earthquake, victims remain uncertain about their future and the only thing they are holding on is expectation of donations from well-wishers trickling in day by day.

In the wee hours of yesterday, Mr Deusdedit Kashenyi, a resident of Katatorwansi in Bukoba District, was found enduring in the cold, cuddling two of his children while seated on a small mattress outside the ruins of what used to be his house. This structure, which he built 15 years ago, collapsed in the wake of the September 10 earthquake of the magnitude of 5.7 on the Richter Scale.

“I wish my family had a tent,’’ he tells The Citizen immediately after waking up. For temporary shelter, he has erected posts and used polythene material for roofing.

“I hear that the government has mobilised resources for us. As far as I’m concerned, only some church leaders have visited us here and provided us with sugar, soap and rice. As for a permanent shelter, I’m really confused as I don’t know where to start,” he says, his face a picture of desperation.

According to Kagera regional commissioner Musa Kijuu, at least Sh9 billion is needed immediately to address basic issues facing victims of the earthquake, while only Sh400 million has been received by his office so far.

Collapsed houses, structures rendered inhabitable due to huge cracks on the walls, pathetic state of victims all point at one reality—more needs to be done to help residents of Bukoba and Misenyi districts pick up the pieces.

Says the RC, “Our primary focus is on repairing infrastructure such as roads, schools and health facilities so that they will become functional again.”

In its night survey in the five wards of Kashai, Nsambya, Buhembe, Hamugembe and Kahororo, The Citizen finds that tales of the likes of Mr Kashenyi are plenty. These are tales of hopelessness, of families shaken to the core, tales of lost hope.

However, there was a glimmer of hope in Kashai, Bukoba Municipality, where The Citizen found Maria Anthony, 33, a petty trader, having received a tent in which her four children found a bit of comfort.

The young mother, who formerly lived in a rented two-room house, like several of her neighbours, was a beneficiary of the Tanzania Red Cross and Red Crescent Society—one of the relief agencies working to assist the disaster victims in the worst-hit Bukoba Municipality-- that also donated tents.

“Imagine, I had just paid rent for six-months when the tragedy hit us. I hope my landlord will have pity on me. I heard the government will offer us Sh20,000 each for house rent for three months, I’m not sure whether this is true or not, but when will the money come?” she wonders.

Meteorological details in the region show that Bukoba District receives bimodal rainfall—that is, two rainfall seasons. The short rains of September began on Monday and would continue up to December.

Ms Shubila Martine was forced to wrap up the beddings and take them into her dilapidated house after it rained briefly on Monday afternoon. She was yet to receive a tent.

“Of course we can’t spend a night in there again. I will only keep our belongings in that house for a while. It’s scary. We are still praying that the rain doesn’t come,’’ Ms Martine, also a trader at Hamugembe, says.

She says she is tired of journalists crisscrossing sarming around them asking questions and taking photos.

“They come here, take photos of our bedding, ourselves and houses and yet there is no assistance coming from the government. For how long shall we keep sleeping outside in the cold? I don’t know,” she says, fuming.

Meanwhile, geologists have warned people in the region affected by the earthquake not to start building new houses immediately because the disaster was likely to recur—albeit with lesser impact.

Mr Gabriel Mbogoni, senior geologist at Geological Survey of Tanzania, said yesterday that it was too early for residents of Bukoba and Misenyi districts to start putting up new structures.

In Misenyi—one of the worst affected districts, 100 residents of Ishozi Ward need shelter but only 22 plastic sheets and blankets have been distributed, according to the councillor, Mr William Rutta.

Mr Rutta told The Citizen that most of the aid that is being delivered to Kagera Region seems to be focused on Bukoba Municipality while Misenyi has been forgotten.

“There is lack of prioritisation in the way aid is being distributed. I think this is caused by lack of clear information on who is more affected,’’ he said.