Evicted Hoima Residents Seek Help as ActionAid Intervenes

Florence Nsungwa, a widow with four children, sits in front of her makeshift structure pondering what to feed her children.

She says finding food for her children is the biggest problem, and, quite often, she relies on food hand-outs from good Samaritans or works on other people’s gardens in exchange for cassava.

Nsungwa is one of the more than 200 families that the police and court bailiffs evicted from their land in Rwamutonga village, Bugambe sub county, Hoima district, in August 2014. The disputed piece of land allegedly belongs to Joshua Tibagwa, who, in 2012, processed a title without the knowledge of the occupants in 2012.

His plan was to sell the land to McAlester Energy Resources Ltd, an American company from Texas that wanted to set up an oil waste treatment plant. Today, the evicted families are in dire need of decent shelter, food, medicine and household equipment.

The sight of malnourished and half-naked children and adults looking haggard are common in the camp. Nsungwa says her children did not go to school last term after the eviction because the new place of abode lacked nearby education facilities. There are high chances the children will drop out of school indefinitely if they do not enrol for school as soon as possible.

Yet, having uneducated children is the least of their worries.

“We have no clothes. This is the only cloth I have. I put it on during the day, and at night it is our blanket. Most of the clothes and other household items were burnt down in the house during the eviction,” Nsungwa narrates.

Aloysius Onzima, the chairperson of Rwamutonga village, said out of the 220 families that had been evicted from their land, only 140 families were living in makeshift camps the rest of the families were absorbed by communities.

In total, there are 1,031 people who were affected by the eviction, most of them women and children.

ActionAid donation

“We have issues with health. We only have two latrines serving 140 families,” he said.

The situation worsens when it rains as the risk of getting diseases heightens. In order to help the evictees, on December 23rd, ActionAid Uganda donated an assortment of food and non-food relief items to the affected families worth Shs 50m.

The items included: 5,000 kilograms of soy-maize meal for children, 2,000 kilograms of maize flour and 2,000 kilograms of beans. The non-food items were: 200 blankets, 200 tarpaulins to help them set up tents, 100 pangas, 100 slashers and 100 ropes.

Fredrick Kawooya, Programme manager ActionAid Uganda, said the donation was part of the organization’s commitment to help vulnerable people in desperate need of help. He said the donation was a small token and pledged more.

Tophase Kaahwa, the Hoima Woman Member of Parliament, said she shed tears when she found children naked because their clothes were burnt during the eviction, and pregnant women who had nothing to eat. She thanked ActionAid for the donation and implored other relief organizations to follow suit.

“We need to discuss this issue (of eviction and the deplorable conditions at the camp) at the level of parliament” she said.

George Bagonza Tinkamanyire, the Hoima district chairman, lauded ActionAid for the donation. He said the district faced harsh times to deal with evicted people in Rwamutonga, Kyangwali and Rwengabi. He said the district could do not do much as it was also cash-strapped.

“We have written to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) for help because these are internally displaced persons, but we have not received any reply,” he said.

Godfrey Nykahuma, the Hoima Resident district commissioner, who described the eviction as “nasty” implored other humanitarian organizations to help the evicted people with basic items.

Dr Fredrick Byenume, the district health inspector, notes that children are suffering from acute malnutrition due to lack of enough nutritional food.

He asked the district to give the evictees mosquito nets to reduce on the number of malaria incidences. He said the district health team planned to set up and run a mobile clinic at the makeshift camp to enable people access medical services, in addition to massive immunisation of all children against some preventable diseases.

Ray of hope

The evictees have since challenged their eviction order upon which they were evicted, arguing that it was irregularly issued. Through their attorney, Ian Musinguzi, they have in addition filed a restoration order to try and get them back on their land.

They want Tibagwa’s land title cancelled on grounds that it was processed fraudulently.

Source : The Observer

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