Relocating vulnerable people from high risk zone will save lives

Friday October 5 2018


The Kimisagara disaster risk area hit by the previous adverse rains. PHOTO | FILE 

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Rwanda’s National Risk Atlas launched in September 2015 was the first-ever comprehensive disaster risk profile developed in Africa to enhance disaster risk management and provides guidance on disaster risk reduction and sustainable development.

The Atlas followed a string of disasters from 2005 onwards, and was a recognition of the fact that, in order to safeguard development gains and achieve Agenda 2030, a thorough risk assessment would be necessary.

It focuses on five main hazards: Drought, landslides, floods, earthquakes and windstorms. It highlights the elements at risks, the nature of vulnerability and recommendations to mitigate the risks.

The highlands of the Congo-Nile Ridge in the Western, Southern and Northern Provinces are mostly prone to landslide. About 40 per cent of the country’s population, according to the atlas, is also exposed to landslides at moderate to very high slope susceptibility.

Gakenke, Karongi, Muhanga, Ngororero, Nyamagabe Gicumbi, Nyamasheke, Nyaruguru, Rusizi and Rutsiro are the most disaster-prone districts.

Landslides and floods identified as major hazards are attributed to hilly topography and high annual precipitation rates with over exploitation of the natural environment such as deforestation, inappropriate farming and poor housing techniques, which accelerate the disaster risks and hence result in losses of lives and damage to property.

Triggering factors

This is aggravated by some triggering factors such as steep slopes, soil instability, heavy rains, low level of drainage systems, land-use type, land tenure type and others.

Although the first stage in the risk assessment cycle has been successfully completed, there is a need for more collective measures to effectively improve safety.

It is critical to develop an implementation plan, disseminate risk information in a user-friendly format, and strengthen risk governance institutions and systems at national, local and sectoral levels to effectively minimise loss of life when disaster strikes.

Improving the policy framework is not sufficient as there is a need for massive sensitisation and financial resources to effectively address the issue of relocation ahead of a disaster.

The government has for years been involved in relocating families residing in these high-risk zones to safer places.

Despite the big step in the relocation of families residing in these risky areas, there are some families that are either still reluctant or have vehemently refused to heed the repeated calls to relocate to secure places, putting their lives at stake. This calls for massive sensitisation to help them understand the potential risks.

Limited financial resources remain a major constraint to relocation. While the government is taking the lead in the process of relocation, it needs support from different stakeholders including the private sector who may contribute to the wider social good by building houses for vulnerable members of our society.