Coronavirus and deadly flash floods could spell double disaster for Uganda

Published: 7 May 2020

Heavy rain on 7th May caused four rivers in the Kasese District in western Uganda to burst their banks. Already suffering from life in lockdown since 30th March, communities must now contend with destroyed homes and displaced people. MAF is responding as best it can…   

Around 173,000 people and 24,760 homes have been impacted by the floods (The Guardian). With houses, crops and livelihoods swept away, homelessness, poverty and potential starvation are beginning to overshadow the threat of coronavirus.

The rain has caused Lake Victoria - which straddles Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania - to swell to record levels not seen since the 1920s.

MAF’s runway is partially submerged

MAF Uganda’s runway in Kajjansi Airfield – located on the outskirts of Lake Victoria - has also flooded. Part of it is three feet under water.

As coronavirus restrictions begin to decrease in Uganda, MAF’s ground operations team have been able to access the runway for damage.

Despite the floods, every effort is being made to keep MAF’s runway in Kajjansi open. The MAF team have been making good use of their time by undertaking extensive repairs and manoeuvring aircraft. MAF Uganda’s Communication Officer, Jill Vine, explains:

‘It took five engineers and one entire day to tow the planes across a newly built ramp and soft grass. Our team were able to do this with the help of a huge tractor, kindly provided by the police hangar next door!’

An MAF plane towed across Kaijansi Airfield by a tractor on loan from local police

When the waters recede and repairs are complete, the aircraft will be able to properly taxi in and out once again.

Once the coronavirus restrictions are lifted, MAF hope the runway will be ready in time to accommodate the full fleet. 

MAF permissions fortuitously granted before the floods

At the height of the pandemic and before the floods hit, MAF entered into challenging negotiations with the Ugandan authorities during their strict lockdown to obtain special permissions and licenses to fly in an emergency.

Fortuitously, MAF was finally granted permission to fly just before the heavens opened. MAF was able to relocate two of its aircraft from Kajjansi Airfield to Entebbe International Airport. As a result, MAF are successfully on standby today for any disaster response flying.

‘We have more obstacles in our way than ever before’

Uganda’s Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, has set up a Disaster Response Task Force to address the country’s latest flood emergency. MAF has been in touch with its head to offer support. MAF’s Uganda Programme Manager, Steve Forsyth, says supporting Uganda has never been more critical:

‘Although we have more obstacles in our way than ever before, it’s so important for MAF to stand with the people of Uganda throughout this painful time. We hope to start flying much needed supplies to Kasese.

Prayers for this nation are invaluable. MAF need your support more than ever during this uncertain time, so that we can continue the work we’ve been created to do in a crisis.’