MARACHA. The women living in the border sub-counties of Maracha district with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are at a high risk of contracting coronavirus disease (COVID-19) due to the looming water crisis in the district.

This is after officials raised a red flag following reports that women mainly from Oluvu, Oluffe and Oleba sub-counties have resorted to crossing in to the neighbouring DRC in search for water for domestic use.

Maracha district has 38km border stretch with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The concern was raised by Ms Esther Soet, the Maracha resident district commissioner (RDC) during the district’s coronavirus task force meeting on Tuesday.

Soet who doubles as Maracha district COVID-19 task force chairperson called for improvement of surveillance along the borderline so as to prohibit women from crossing to DRC since the move puts the population at risk of contracting the virus.

“In Maracha here, the biggest problem the communities are facing is water problem; its too much! I thought it was only in town council here but it is something now which is district wide. People are calling to inform me that women are crossing to Congo to fetch water, I said now all along people have been crossing into Congo to fetch water, why were officials not reporting the matter to us?” Soet wondered.

She noted that recently, the wife of a local council one (LCI) chairperson crossed into Congo to fetch water and later, a fight ensued there and as a result, she was stoned to near death.

“So, with the help of the district engineer, please rectify the taps and boreholes that are not functioning so that people get water to avoid crossing in to Congo,” Soet said.

Recent reports indicate that DR Congo has registered over 700 coronavirus cases with a total of 34 deaths. This puts the neighbouring countries like Uganda at risk due to the porous nature of the border.

But Ms Rose Atima Ayaka, the Maracha district woman Member of Parliament (MP) who was part of the meeting to hand over the shs20m which court had directed all MPs to give to their respective districts to fight COVID-19 said water shortage shouldn’t have been a challenge in the district since government had earlier directed all districts to fix the problem.

“I’m aware that over 100 boreholes across the district are not functional but a letter was written sometime back to all districts to repair non-functional water sources. Now I’m not sure why the government directive was not taken seriously in Maracha,” Ayaka said.

Ayaka pledged to follow up the matter since the war against coronavirus needs water for people to win.

By press time on Wednesday, Mr Timothy Ezati, the Maracha district water engineer couldn’t update us on the water situation in the district on phone but promised to avail details later. We shall keep you updated.

Meanwhile Dr. Paul Onzubo, the Maracha district health officer called for the gazettement of points of entry into Maracha to be taken seriously.

“We don’t have any official point of entry with DRC where we can say that we are going to put our staff here to be able to check our people. The points of entry are only designated and designed basing on whether this is an immigration point or an entry point by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA),” Onzubo said.

“Maracha has about seven entry points which are not gazetted and this is putting our people at risk,” Onzubo advised.

 Dr Onzubo

However, Mr Hassan Hiwumbire, the Maracha DPC blamed the border problem on the negative attitude of the residents towards reporting people crossing to and from DRC.

“Locals are not cooperating with security in sharing information about people crossing the border illegally. Instead, they hide such people in their houses and the act is making our work difficult,” Hiwumbire said.

Maracha has not yet reported any case of COVID-19 though two suspected samples were taken, tested and resulted to be negative.