Ugandans warned heavy El-Nino rains could cost lives, economy

The government has issued a warning about the possibility of social and economic disruptions, as well as a loss of livelihoods, in various parts of the country due to El Nino.

El Nino refers to a climate phenomenon characterised by the periodic warming of Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific Ocean, leading to significant ocean-atmosphere interactions on a large scale.

Experts have observed that El Nino events occur irregularly at intervals of 2-7 years, with an average frequency of about once every 3-4 years.

These events are part of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which includes phases of warming (El Nino), cooling (La Nina), and neutral conditions.

El Nino has a direct impact on rainfall distribution in the tropics and can significantly influence weather patterns in Uganda during the September to December rainfall season.

Its presence can have long-lasting effects on weather patterns not only in Uganda but also in other parts of the world.

In a statement from the office of the Prime Minister, signed by Rogers Irumba Kaija on behalf of the permanent secretary, local governments, communities, and the general public are urged to take this early warning seriously.

He also advised District Disaster Management Committees and stakeholders at the district level to update and activate their multi-hazard district contingency plans.

Kaija further recommended conducting community sensitization, routine monitoring, assessments, including surveillance and reporting of disasters to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

He emphasised that regularly acquiring weather and climate updates from the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) and disseminating them to the communities is crucial.

Additionally, the committee should hold regular community meetings to keep the residents informed about the impact of El Nino.

Prepositioning emergency supplies in areas at high risk is essential for timely response in case of extreme weather events such as floods and landslides.

Collaboration with the Uganda Red Cross Action Teams (RCATS) is also encouraged.

Communities are advised to engage in clean-up activities, such as de-silting and digging drainage channels, and to store food stock to mitigate shortages during periods of heavy rainfall.

As the intensity of rains increases, officials emphasised that communities in high-risk areas should relocate to safer, higher grounds and avoid crossing flooded or waterlogged sections.

Driving or riding during heavy downpours and on flooded roads should also be avoided.

Kaija stated, "Water harvesting facilities should be installed at household level and institutions. Passengers are advised to avoid using water transport during risky times. Taking shelter under trees should be avoided, and buildings in lightning-prone areas, including schools, hospitals, and churches, are advised to install lightning arrestors."

On September 1, 2023, the Uganda National Meteorological Authority (UNMA) issued a rainfall performance forecast for the period of September to December 2023.

The forecast indicated a likelihood of above-normal (enhanced) rainfall in several parts of the country, as depicted in the map below.

It was noted that El Nino would also influence climate conditions during the September to December 2023 rainfall season.

El Nino events in Uganda are often associated with heavy rainfall.

Given Uganda's vulnerability to weather-related hazards and associated disasters, and considering the El Nino alert from UNMA, it is anticipated that there is a potential for social and economic disruptions, as well as a loss of livelihoods, in most parts of the country.

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