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Health fears after Uganda mudslides

More than 300 people are still missing and feared dead after last week’s landslides, caused by heavy rain, swept away three villages near the eastern town of Bududa. Rescue teams have so far found 90 bodies said Ugandan officials.  Rose Nakhayetse and her nine-month-old baby are among more than 1,000 people camping in the grounds and four classrooms of a primary school in the village of Bukalasi. All of them share a single pit latrine.  “The numbers here are too big and we do not have enough toilets, so that is making this place dirty,” the 24-year-old told United Nations news service, IRIN.

Health officials are now warning the poor sanitation is leading to an epidemic. “We have recorded up to 100 cases of diarrhoea and vomiting among children and some adults,” said medical worker David Mulele. The health centre he works at did have stocks of drugs, but now all the essentials used to treat sickness and diarrhoea, such as rehydration salts, have all run out. “We are just improvising to keep these people going,” he said. “We have the skills, but we lack the tools.” Safe drinking water, water containers, water purification tablets, toilets and soap are urgently needed, said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). And because many of those made homeless ran away from their houses with just the clothes they had on, they need shelter and clothes. There is also a need for special help for children arriving at the camp without their parents, who are among the missing or dead.

As many as 20,000 families may have been affected by the disaster with 1,000 households (6,000 people) of serious concern, the OCHA said. It warned that some 15,000 households risked waterborne diseases because of submerged pit latrines.  Heavy rain is forecast to continue in parts of Uganda for several weeks, pushing the government to consider permanently rehousing up to half a million people living in the mountains. "A total population of about 500,000 is at risk of landslides and floods. We plan to resettle this population from these very high-risk locations both in the east and west of the country, once emergency operations for the current situation end," said disaster minister Musa Ecweru.
The area, about 275km (170 miles) north east of the capital Kampala, often suffers from landslides but last weeks was an unusually high death toll.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children