Disasters Photo gallery

Season of rain, season of tragedy

From Ebola to disasters, the Ugandan Red Cross is used to responding to a wide range of crises. In western Uganda, for example, the Red Cross has been helping a growing number of people displaced by catastrophic yearly mudslides and floods.

For each of the past three years, the hills around the town of Kesese in western Uganda become saturated and heavy with water. Despite the rich vegetation, and the roots that hold stabilize the earth, the hillsides sometimes collapse, and rivers overflow, creating torrents of water, mud and rock that crash through villages below. They flatten or wash away homes, destroy schools, bridges, health facilities and food processing factories. They kill people, livestock and crops. For this reason, in areas around Kesese, there are growing communities of people displaced by mudslides. Around Kesese, approximately 6,000 people are living in tents in open areas and subsist as best they can with limited water, food and sanitation.

The Ugandan Red Cross them with essential items such as blankets, mosquito nets, soap, jerrycans, saucepans, tarpaulins, mats and basic cooking supplies. But the needs are still great. In early September, the villages of Kasika and Kabughabugha, became the latest villages to endure a sudden mudslide. Ronald Kenyerezi, the Ugandan Red Cross branch manager for Kesese, was there shortly after the tragedy and shares this story in photo and words.

A volunteer with the Ugandan Red Cross conducts search and rescue for people missing after floods and mudslides in September sent a torrent of heavy rocks and mud that poured down on the village.

Volunteer Kule Mwesige examples damage to a house where a torrent of rocks and mud tore away part of a home made from tree branches, packed mud and iron roofing material. Roughly 82 homes were completely destroyed by the mudslide in this village.

Survivors move to higher ground where they set up makeshift tents, which the villagers make using branches from nearby trees for support, tarpaulins from the Red Cross and banana leaves on the tents that provide extra support and protection from rain, while helpingto keep the tents a bit cooler.

Ugandan Red Cross volunteers were among the first to respond at the scene. Here a volunteer is performing and early assessment to find out what the villagers most need and to share important information about health and hygiene.

This man is adding a small outdoor, sheltered kitchen next to his sleeping quarters. After they were displaced by the mudslides, nearly everyone has to cook and eat out in the open air. This is not easy during times of rain and nights when temperatures drop.

Sadness covers the village like a cloud, even after the rainclouds leave. Here, people watch as an excavator driver performs the sad and difficult task of searching for the bodies of missing people who may still buried deep in the rocky soil of the mudslide. District authorities provided the excavator machine while the Red Cross was there, ready to give first aid and psychosocial support.

Now the task at hand is for those who survived to stay healthy. Here, Red Cross volunteers offer psychosocial support and emphasize hygiene promotion and sanitation (in particular to avoid drinking un-boiled water and open defecation, both of which could lead to outbreak of disease).

“The mudslide swept away our water spring and so we are now devising the means of getting water again using the a fresh banana fiber to tap the spring water into the jerrycans,” says Masereka Moses from Kasika Village.

In this photo, children wash their clothes and others bath while others fetch water for home consumption. All of the usual water sources have been blocked by the mudslide.

The Red Cross is also there to listen carefully to each person’s needs so that it can best respond. Here, Uganda Red Cross volunteer Masereka Greyford conducts a registration of those whose houses were swept away in order to assess the scale of the response needed.

This photo shows the wide path of destruction and a partially demolished home. In this case, the main house was completely washed away and only a small kitchen house remains. Meanwhile, a young boy carries water over boulders and debris that used to be a well-trodden foot path.

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This story was photographed and drafted by Ronald Kanyerezi,
a talented and dynamic storyteller from Uganda Red Cross Society.

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