A document that identifies areas in Uganda that are prone to disasters, the extent of the hazard, the probability and frequency of occurrence and magnitude of their impacts has been launched, to boost the country’s preparedness and response to crises and shocks.
The National Risk and Vulnerability Atlas of Uganda, with statistics, graphic representation and maps, giving pointers on mitigation measures was launched by Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the Prime Minister of Uganda, at his office on Tuesday February 22, 2021.
The Atlas outlines what most at-risk communities should do to reduce vulnerability and strengthen their resilience.
During the launch, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which supported the compilation of the Atlas also formally handed over strategic equipment that will be used to reactivate the National Emergency Coordination and Operation Centre (NECOC) at the national and district levels. In 2014, UNDP supported the establishment of NECOC, a 24-hour hub to provide timely and early warning information on disasters, climate modelling and forecasting, and help coordinate emergency responses. It is the third such centre in Africa with the other two located in Ethiopia and South Africa.
After a nationwide analysis of historical data and research, it was found that Uganda is vulnerable to seven disasters including; flooding, drought, hailstorms, windstorms, landslides, earthquakes and lightening.
National hazard exposure
The most at the risk/critical facilities were identified as; the general population, health centers, schools, residential areas, roads, warehouses and water supply systems.
According to the findings, drought mostly affects Karamoja and Teso sub-region, West Nile and the cattle corridor areas while floods are dominant in regions of; Elgon, Bukedi, Rwenzori, Teso, Karamoja, Buliisa, Nakasongola, Acholi and West Nile areas.
On the other hand, the hotspots for lightening are the districts of; Bushenyi, Mitooma, Rukungiri, Kanungu, Busia, Namutumba, Bukwo, Kalangala, Buvuma, Adjumani, Nwoya, Amuru and Lamwo. Earthquake occurrence is more likely in the western arm of the Rift Valley, Kagera area and around Lake Victoria basin. Relatedly, hailstorm is common in Elgon, Bukedi, Central and Western areas while windstorms are common in Bukedi, Teso, Ankole, Bunyoro, Rwenzori and South Western Uganda.
Speaking shortly before launching the Atlas, the Prime Minister of Uganda the Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda hailed the National Risk and Vulnerability Atlas of Uganda as, “an important instrument to help in the understanding of risks that we have been exposed to in all their dimensions.”
While recognizing the negative effects of hazards and disasters, the PM called for concerted efforts to mitigate them. “Disasters are holding back long-term development endeavors, affecting our macro-economic performance, the achievement of SDGs, the attainment of the Uganda Vision 2040 and its aspiration of ‘A Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years”, Dr. Rugunda said.
Disasters are putting immense pressure on social and human development, with Uganda being categorized as one of the most vulnerable countries ranking 14th among the vulnerable and 48th least ready country to respond particularly to hydro-meteorological hazards an issue that the Prime Minister described as, “a serious observation that requires urgent intervention.”
On his part, the Acting Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office Mr. James Collins Dombo said that the findings will boost Uganda’s response to disasters and risks, “We therefore hope that the atlas will guide the design of policies and strategies necessary to mitigate risks, and guide national partners’ actions on preparedness and response to disasters” he said.
Ministers calls for dedicated budget to deal with Disasters
Hon. Eng. Hillary Onek, the Minister of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees expressed delight at the shift to digital analysis of disasters and hazards. “We are moving towards a scientific approach to disasters’ management. In the past, crises were emergencies but now we have the capacity to forecast and plan for them in advance,” Hon. Onek pointed out.
The Minister also called for a dedicated budget for disasters in national planning frameworks, “Currently we operate on contingency funding which is undefined. Now that we have scientific evidence of disasters, we should have a budget to be able to address the issues identified.”
The UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Elsie Attafuah, said the Atlas provides vital evidence for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals, Uganda’s Vision 2040 and the third National Development Plan (NDP III) 2021 – 2025, “The National Risk and Vulnerability Atlas is crucial for resilience building, especially now, in the wake of the far reaching impacts of COVID-19 which have exacerbated the impacts of the other disasters the country has recently faced such as; floods, locusts, and landslides. UNDP is delighted to have supported the Government of Uganda to develop the atlas in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction,” Ms. Attafuah noted, adding that the atlas also supports the development of a National Data Infrastructure (NDI), whilst building community resilience through improved risk information and knowledge generation.
Additionally, she said, the atlas will guide policy and decision-making to enhance coordination of disaster risk reduction and emergency management by contributing to risk-proofing investments, prioritizing resources allocation towards high-risk areas, and pursuing risk-informed development.
The Atlas is aligned to Uganda’s development aspirations. It seeks to “reduce human and economic loss from natural hazards” which is one of the objectives of Uganda’s NDP III.
Effect of disasters
Uganda’s economic and human development is closely tied to many climate-sensitive resources and sectors such as agriculture, water, environment, tourism, natural resources, health, transport, and housing.
Over the years, disasters in Uganda have been occurring with increasing frequency and intensity, leading to a loss of lives, property, disruption in services, and decreased access to infrastructure. Efforts to contain these hazards have been hampered by the emergence of COVID-19.
During the period 2019-2020 alone, excluding COVID-19 impacts, disaster events reported in over 70 districts affected about 800,000 people, displaced 21,000 families, and resulted in UGX 563.24 billion economic losses according to the 2020 National Disaster Recovery Plan for Uganda.
Previous UNDP support
The compilation of the National Risk and Vulnerability Atlas builds on other UNDP’s strategic offers to the Government of Uganda in the area of strengthening the country’s resilience to crises and shocks.
Over the last six years, NECOC established with UNDP’s support has reached several important milestones including the establishment of District Disaster Management Committees, the development of Hazard, Risk and Vulnerability (HRV) Profiles and Maps covering 112 districts. It has also helped to avert over 57 disasters.
UNDP also supported the National Planning Authority (NPA) in the formulation of Uganda’s NDP III and in so doing ensured that disaster risk reduction is explicitly and extensively included in the plan.
UNDP is also supporting OPM in the ongoing Development of a Comprehensive National Disaster Recovery Plan informed by the post-flood disaster risk assessment that UNDP supported in 2020.