Mudslides in DRC and Uganda have left hundreds dead, including two Gorilla Organization project workers
After days of heavy rainfall, flash flooding and mudslides hit communities and settlements in the cross-border region adjoining Rwanda. Officials have put the initial death toll in DRC at more than 400 people, with thousands missing and thousands more without shelter. Among the fatalities was a forestry manager working at the Gorilla Organization’s reforestation project at Kalehe, on the shores of Lake Kivu. A further 200 beneficiaries work at the project’s tree nurseries, created to provide sustainable livelihoods for the communities of South Kivu and combat habitat loss threatening the native gorilla population.
In Uganda, the organisation’s project for indigenous Batwa communities is working alongside aid agencies MSF and ICRC to provide food and shelter for Batwa villagers who have lost their homes in the deluge. One project beneficiary has also died.
Gorilla Organization Director Jillian Miller says: “These mudslides are the latest in a long list of tragedies to hit the people living in the region.”
Gorilla Organization Program manager in DRC Henry Cirhuza reported: “The rains caused a landslide and overflow of rivers that led to the destruction of houses, health centres, schools, bridges and many public buildings. In this disaster, we lost two tree nursery sites, that of Bushushu and that of Nyamukubi. We mourn the death of a forester, his family members and more than 200 beneficiaries in the two villages.”
Over recent years, ongoing deforestation has not only added to the pressure facing the endangered mountain gorilla population but has also raised the risk of flooding and mudslides. The Gorilla Organization has planted more than two million trees in the region to provide a ‘green buffer’ between the gorillas and the neighbouring communities.