Residents’ agony in ‘forgotten’ quake area

Thursday September 22 2016


By Syriacus Buguzi and Kamala Lutatinisibwa @TheCitizenTz

Misenyi. It is taking too long for relief to trickle down to Kagera Region residents affected by the September 10 earthquake as the government maintains that it is the sole authority that decides where and to whom aid should be distributed. Matters are complicated by the fact that there is no reliable data that can be used to determine the actual extent of devastation in the affected areas.

This is happening at a time when there are concerns that aid is not being allocated to areas it is needed most.

The Citizen conducted a survey in Ishozi Ward, Misenyi District, where the area councillor, Mr William Rutta, was at pains to explain why the area had been “forgotten” in the delivery of relief aid.

He said at least 100 people in the ward were in dire need of shelter, but only 22 plastic sheets and as many blankets had so far been distributed by authorities, some relief agencies and well-wishers.

Mr Rutta said Bukoba Municipality was getting the lion’s share of aid being delivered in Kagera Region, adding that Misenyi had been overlooked.

“There is a lack of prioritisation in the way aid is being distributed. I think this is caused by lack of accurate information and statistics,” he added.

The Citizen has learnt that some religious institutions, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), were still awaiting government permission to provide assistance in Bunazi Ward, Misenyi District.

An ELCT pastor, Felix Kagimbo, told The Citizen that the church had started to mobilise resources to help those rendered homeless and were waiting for the go-ahead from regional authorities.

The Tanzania Red Cross Society (TRCS) has also suspended relief efforts in Bukoba until further notice after initially distributing aid to survivors in Bukoba. Some residents said the organisation had provided them with food and temporary shelter in the form of tents.

Ms Mariam Anthony told The Citizen that some of her neighbours who had been lined up for TRCS aid were still waiting for assistance.

The Minister of State in the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government, Mr George Simbachawene, told reporters in Bukoba that the regional disaster committee would on Friday release findings of its assessment of devastation caused by the earthquake.

As victims and benefactors alike were kept waiting, journalists have been having finding it difficult to get information from authorities.

Access to data has been mired in bureaucracy as regional authorities have not been forthcoming with regard to the actual extent of destruction caused by the 5.7-magnitude earthquake.

It is still not clear whether it was Misenyi or Bukoba which bore the brunt of the disaster. Some commentators argue that Misenyi was supposed to be given priority since it was closest to the epicentre of the earthquake.

The office of the regional disaster committee had by yesterday evening not provided details on the extent of devastation in the affected districts despite several requests by The Citizen.

When journalists sought to know which district was the worst affected, the Kagera Regional Commissioner, Major General (rtd) Salum Kijuu, said, “The most destruction was in Bukoba Municipality.’’ However, he did not provide statistics to support his assertion.

He said 126,315 people were affected by the disaster in the entire region and 16,667 houses were either damaged or destroyed.

Major General Kijuu added that the death toll was 17, not 19 as earlier reported, and the number of those injured stood at 360.

A source in the Health Department in Misenyi District, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media, told The Citizen that one person died in the area and 24 others were injured.

The Citizen saw signs of earthquake damage in a number of villages in the district, but it was nowhere near the havoc wreaked in Bukoba.

Going by the number of casualties announced by the regional commissioner, it can be assumed that 16 people died and 336 others were injured in Bukoba, making it the worst affected area in the region.