Flooding in Uganda Threatening COVID-19 Response, Catholic Relief Agency Cautions

Several Islands in Uganda flooded after Lake Victoria overflowed its banks. The inhabitants had to be evacuated.

Following the heavy rains being experienced in the East African nation of Uganda, an official of Malteser International (MI), the worldwide relief agency of the Rome-based Catholic Lay Religious Order of Malta, has warned that the resulting floods are a threat to COVID-19 response in the affected region.

Floods in the Kasese region located in western Uganda have left an estimated 30,000 people homeless. According to MI leadership in the country, the disaster is the worst of its kind to hit the region in the last 50 years.

“This disaster is threatening to have major implications for the COVID-19 response in the community,” MI's Technical Coordinator in Uganda, Laura Beutler has been quoted as saying.

The official has added, “Those displaced have been forced to seek refuge in makeshift shelters where social distancing is practically impossible. The risk of COVID-19 spreading there is now high.”

To reduce the risk of the virus spreading among the displaced people, plans are underway for the leadership of the 60-year-old agency to facilitate daily access to clean water to at least 1,000 affected people.


Headquartered in Germany and USA, MI is expected to work with local partners to provide the local communities with information on preventive measures against the pandemic.

The floods occasioned by the bursting of banks of four major rivers in the region have led to the destruction of not only homes, but also other infrastructure including roads, bridges, and public buildings such as hospitals and schools.

“The largest hospital in Kasese has had to be evacuated, leaving people there without medical care,” MI Technical Coordinator in Uganda has noted and added, “We will be sending eight ambulances and a medical team to assist health facilities in the district.”

A lack of medical care would be fatal, especially during this coronavirus pandemic, the official has added.

Neighboring countries such as Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia have also experienced ravaging floods that have led to loss of lives, displacement of people as well as destruction of property.

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Health experts have raised concerns on the impact of the disaster on COVID-19 response in the affected countries with Kenya’s Health Ministry Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Rashid Aman noting, “Displaced people have been forced to congregate in makeshift camps. This is compounding the Covid-19 response."  

Expressing similar sentiments, the Country Representative of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Kenya, Lane Bunkers has been quoted as saying, “In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, inadequate and overcrowded shelters bring a heightened-risk of transmission with the elderly and puts those with underlying health problems at greatest risk.”