Over one hundred people are still homeless and an estimated two dozen children risk dropping out of school after their grass-thatched houses located in Lukung Sub-ward in Gulu municipality were set ablaze by a suspected mad man.
The unfortunate incident happened on January 25, 2018 when a mad man set ablaze some of the huts, although the effect of fire was extended by very windy weather that ensured that up to 23 huts were razed to the ground.
Children whose books, uniforms and beddings were burnt to ash are some of the most affected groups. And as their friends returned to school this week, many were left behind unsure if they will ever have the opportunity to get back to school.
30-year old Beatrice Angom, a mother of four, gave birth through Caesarian Section one month ago says her wound opened as she tried to save her property from the burning hut and has left her in a lot of pain. She worries that her children may not go to school this year since she is beginning life from Zero.
“I have nothing completely even to cover this baby on my back. Neighbors have been helping us with food but we don’t have blankets yet it is very cold at night and early morning. I cannot think of school now. I am only thinking of how they can eat and survive. School this year. No?” Beatrice wonders.
Angom was a tenant in 41 year old Michael Odong Ojera’s hut. Ojera, a primary school teacher at Pawel Langetta Primary school suffered the same fate with Angom when his 17 huts were burnt. He used to charge between 10,000/= to 25,000/= as rent per month.
It is now 6 days, Ojera and his family of 10 children are homeless without any food or clothing. Their property got burnt in the huts. His 17 year old son, a senior four vaccist, Godfrey Opiyo, tried to save their neighbors’ huts thinking theirs were safe only to return to huge flames arising from windy weather.
“I tried to save other people’s property thinking our huts would not get burnt. By the time I turned to save ours, it was too late. My result slip for Primary Seven and all my scholastic materials got burnt. I did not save much from my hut. My father too did not save much from his hut.”
Ojera adds that as a father, he is confused and does not know what to do for his children to go to school this year.
“This year, the children will stay home though in my heart, I want them to study.” Says Ojera.
.“All my posting instruction from Ministry of Education, national Identity Card and 600,000/= that I had saved, got burnt. I also had produce; 7 bags of beans, 4 bags of millet, 2 bags of groundnuts and 2 bags of sesame. All got burnt. I don’t know where to begin life from.”
Martin Ojara Mapenduzi, the Gulu district LCV chairman advised those whose essential documents got burnt to seek help from the responsible authority and follow the right procedure to get them again.
During the handover of household items donated by Favor of God ministries, a Christian NGO working in Northern Uganda, Mapenduzi said the affected community needs support from all well-wishers to regain their place in society.
“I know that what you lost involved a lot of hard work for many years. All these things cannot be got back at once. We know there are children whose academic documents got burnt. Let us know so that we liaise with the office of the DEO and UNEB for new copies.”
Favor of God Ministries donated items worth 2 million shillings including 45 jerricans, 205 cups, 69 saucepans, 36 basins, plates, knives, salt, soap, cooking oil among others.
Simon Ogena, the Administrator Favor of God Ministries told our reporter that it is important for believers to reach out to those in need since NGOs that used to help during the wear to give relief aid have left the region for other refugee engagements.
He urged the local community to help their neighbors and give whatever they can and comfort the affected persons.
Laroo division, which has two slams has the most cases of fire outbreak in Gulu Municipality during the dry season.
Moses Abonga, Laroo division LCIII chairperson says grass thatched huts are becoming expensive and a burden to the community.
“We are encouraging people to build houses with iron sheets, let them have low cost houses to eliminate the grass thatched huts which are becoming expensive when such disasters happen,”
He adds that since Gulu is moving towards a city status, grass thatched huts have to be replaced with permanent structures. According to Abonga, in order to discourage grass-thatched huts, the municipality has decided to waive fees charged for anyone to construct a permanent house in Gulu