By Jocelyn Edwards
Children pushed and shoved each other, with their hands outstretched, as Joseph Makwa, the head teacher at the secondary school where victims of the Bududa mudslide have been sheltered, handed out biscuits.
Last week there were signs that bureaucracy and corruption have prevented villagers from getting the help they need as supplies have been delayed and diverted from the people they were intended for.
Three community officials were arrested after they were caught by residents stealing blankets intended for the victims of the disaster last Saturday night. Police spokesman for the Easter Region, Iddi Ssekumbi, said that officers had arrested a parish councilor, a community development officer and a sub-county chief all from the parish of Bukalasi. Earlier in the day, police had to be deployed to maintain order at the temporary resettlement camp where mudslide victims are being sheltered. People there were accusing police of discrimination and favouritism in the distribution of food supplies. [Allegedly] they would go behind and distribute the balance of the items meant for victims to themselves, said Iddi Ssekumbi.
The Red Cross did not take part in the distribution of food, which came from the Office of the Prime Minister and other organisations, due to disagreements with local leaders about how it should be delivered. Local government insisted that the food be spread over the entire sub-county, while the NGO wanted to deliver the supplies to those people actually displaced by the mudslide.
Food was delivered to the council chairmen of the villages to apportion to residents, seeming to make the possibility of corruption and favouritism more likely.
Meanwhile, the World Food Program, which has supplies of maize, beans, cooking oil and other provisions in its storehouse in Tororo, a 45 minutes drive away, still had not received an official request from the Office of the Prime Minister authorising them to deliver supplies by Monday, March 8.
Food scarcity isnt the only problem that the people in the camps have been coping with. Officials feared out breaks of cholera, dysentery and typhoid due to inadequate sanitation. Red Cross officials reported 28 cases of diarrhoea among the population as of last weekend.