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 Thursday 04 October 2007
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UGANDA: Thousands out of class after floods wash away schools

Photo: OCHA
Areas affected by flooding in eastern Africa
KAMPALA, 27 September 2007 (IRIN) - Flash floods sweeping across northern and eastern Uganda have damaged hundreds of schools, leaving at least 100,000 children out of class, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said.

The floods have also destroyed sanitation facilities, preventing the 289 affected schools from reopening, two weeks after other Ugandan schools resumed classes.

"The heaviest impact has been in areas where basic services had already been overstretched," UNICEF said in a statement on 26 September. "Assessments show flood damage further disrupting those services and exacerbating the situation."

Heavy, persistent rainfall since July has caused dangerous levels of flooding and water-logging across areas that were slowly recovering from years of civil strife that pitted the Ugandan forces against the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

The education minister, Namirembe Bitamazire, told parliament on 25 September that new centres were being created to enable the affected students to sit final-year examinations, due to start soon.

"UNICEF and UNEB [Uganda National Examination Board] are putting up centres for final examinations and we shall be airlifting examination papers," Bitamazire said.

About 300 tents have been distributed for use as temporary classrooms to assist more than 150,000 pupils and teachers. UNICEF is also helping to repair damaged sanitation equipment in 49 worst-affected primary schools.

According to the agency, women and children comprise up to 80 percent of the nearly 400,000 people affected by the flooding. Of these, 200,000 who have been displaced from their homes require immediate emergency shelter and household items.

"The incidence of waterborne diseases, malaria and acute respiratory infections has increased by as much as 30 percent," it added. Up to a million measles and 1.2 million polio vaccines have been provided for emergency immunisation activities in the affected areas.

"Emergency and basic drug kits for use by medical staff and community-based health volunteers to treat up to 20,000 people for three months and 17,400 insecticide-treated nets, for use especially by pregnant women and children, have been provided," the UNICEF spokesman in Kampala, Chulho Hyun, told IRIN.

"The major constraint continues to be limited access to the most-affected areas as roads and bridges have been damaged, submerged, and in some cases washed away, by flood waters," Hyun said. "Both air and boat transport is being used in the delivery of aid and in assessments."

Uganda's minister of state for disaster preparedness, relief and refugees, Musa Ecweru, told IRIN that the government had decided to divert all cargo traffic for Sudan from roads through the main affected region to a longer route through the capital Kampala to preserve the only single remaining road linking the region with the outside.

"If we do not do that, the only remaining bridge in Agu that was meant for lighter traffic will collapse under pressure, meaning all relief food will be flown in from Entebbe, which we cannot afford," he said.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Education, (IRIN) Natural Disasters


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States. Republication is subject to terms and conditions as set out in the IRIN copyright page.