During the heavy rain season in April 2017, residents of Kiramuruzi sector in Gatsibo district of Rwanda’s Eastern province were affected when heavy winds blew off their housetops and destroyed sanitation infrastructure particularly latrines which even at the time not in a commendable state.
During a rapid assessment at the time, Rwanda Red Cross identified 135 households that had been severely hit and these were immediately supported with household items including utensils.
Among one of the biggest challenges identified, an acute lack of sanitation infrastructure mostly of latrines threatened to escalate health risks to waterborne communicable diseases particularly cholera among others.
As a result, a decision was taken that while efforts to support the community rehabilitate damaged houses continued, a priority was placed on ensuring that all hit households had a standard latrine to counter health risks that were certain to hit this community sooner or later when the second episode of Rwanda’s rainy season towards the end of the year arrived.
The thorough assessment that followed identified 811 households that had an acute issue with regards to latrines but the available funding could only dig and construct latrines for 105 of these.
In discussions with local authorities through the usual project transparency exercised in all interventions, a new strategy to enable all households acquire standard latrines was agreed upon. The available funding as agreed by leaders and the community would support with roofing which was the main challenge while the rest would be done through community work.
Fast forwarding to 3rd August, 2017, Rwanda Red Cross distributed iron sheets and nails to support the roofing of latrines for the 811 households.
1622 iron sheets and 270kg of nails were distributed to support roofing of the latrines.
According to Angelique Murungi, Rwanda Red Cross’ Disaster Management Coordinator, the National Society is still trying to find funds to support more than 50 most vulnerable households whose rooftops were devastated by the heavy winds.
Other than offering material support, the Red Cross Committee in Gatsibo district has been using this unfortunate happening to scale-up community mobilisations on how to prepare houses to face the harsh winds that sometimes accompany rains in the flatten savannah lands that characterize the eastern region of Rwanda.
“In as much as we are trying to support with relief items, we are also pressing greater emphasis on sensitizing the community on good practices that can prevent such devastations. Among others, we are using audiovisual messages through mobile cinemas to change mindsets and equip the community with information that can save them the losses in future events.”
Beneficiaries vow to support Red Cross activities, advocate for environmental protection
Nyirambonimpaye Maria, one of the beneficiaries narrated how the support was a sigh of relief. “Red Cross came to our aid at a moment we needed them the most. This has made me resolve to become a member of the Red Cross and to support my National Society in its efforts to support fellow Rwandans who get devastated by disasters and other challenges.”
While vowing to support the Rwanda Red Cross too, Butera Jean Bosco, another recipient of the support noted that the event and the sensitisations that followed convicted and turned him into an environmental protection advocate in his community who preaches through actions.
“I have so far planted 70 trees since the disaster and I will continue planting and advocating for their protection.”
As part of its mandate, the Rwanda Red Cross Society supports all vulnerable communities affected by disaster through provision of relief response, recovery and disaster risk reduction interventions.
Regarding the Gatsibo residents, Rwanda Red Cross continues to seek financial support to be able to respond to housing needs of 34 households whose houses were completely destroyed and as such require at least 30 iron sheets for roofing.
Also, 57 households lost part of their rooftops and according to assessments, 15 iron sheets for each would enable rehabilitate them ahead of the next rainy season.
Thanks to the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies through its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, the Rwanda Red Cross has been able to support affected families with relief items and to empowering them acquire life-saving knowledge on how to build resilience against similar devastation.