The Congo continues to lose people to lightning in silence, making it the 'forgotten' natural disaster in that country.

Looting and violence against school after
lightning kills 11 people in KIKWIT 

Read more from Development Worker, Manuela,
citizen reporter of lightning deaths in the Congo
Newsletter Content:  
Director's note 

Tell your story - Dangerous lightning beliefs in Africa 
Lightning events reported in April

Videos about lightning and lightning safety

  Director's Note 

  In the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the depths of the jungle of tropical Africa, lies Tshumbe town. It is in the district of Katako-Kombe in the province of Sankuru. Tshumbe is also the name of the Roman Catholic diocese, the size of Austria, serving this area.

Manuela, a concerned development worker, with her base at a school in Tshumbe, in addition to reporting several deaths and injuries from lightning deaths, also wrote about their school being attacked when students at another (public) school died from lightning because the people thought their private school had called down lightning on the public school to force students to pay tuition and go to the private school.

With Manuela's comments and other reports, we have decided it is time to move from 'myths' that are merely funny or entertaining to begin addressing those that are frankly dangerous. In this issue, the belief that a person can, either by themselves or by hiring a witch, 'call down' lightning to injure people, animals or property in order to profit or get revenge from the incident. 

Belief that lightning can be controlled by supernatural powers causes people to think they can do nothing about it except hire a more powerful witch or Sangoma or use more muthi. It diverts those concerned from searching for existing scientific solutions or using proven preventive measures. It also sets up social conflicts when the parents from one school attack those from another who they suspect of initiating the witchcraft.

This comes at a time when ACLENet, through one of its technology partners,Vaisala, started lightning alerts at Shone Primary School near Hoima town in Uganda. The science of lightning formation, detection and protection are all well established so that it is now possible to form an Early Warning System (EWS) which warns people about impending or nearby lightning so that they can move to safer areas, if available. 

With no lightning safe houses in Tshumbe, no public education about lightning safety, and no lightning alerts as are often available on apps in the US and other developed countries, it is very challenging for ACLENet and partners to find interventions that can save lives while at the same time addressing long held beliefs, taught by generations of parents and elders, such as witches being in control of lightning. However, it is also exciting to have partners like Manuela and her NGO, Future for Tshumbe (Zukunft fuer Tshumbe in German) -,en,pid,56403,type,firmeninfo.html.

Together with Future for Tshumbe, we are hoping to form a network of volunteers across the DRC who will help us document lightning incidents and their locations. Since the DRC covers a territory larger than the size of all western Europe combined and because it has the highest lightning density in the world, we plan to highlight incidents as they are reported through this network.

Information is power and we intend to start with acquiring this power of knowing, even if only a rough estimate, how many people are dying, injured, and what property damage occurs to help us inform and plan with all concerned partners. -- At least, this gives us the hope of doing something to save and change lives.  
Tell your story
We invite you to share your questions and stories about lightning with readers worldwide who are interested in lightning, especially in Africa. We will do our best to publish it and respond to questions with expert advice from our worldwide pool of research advisers and lightning safety experts.

If you witness a lightning incident, please report it, post images on our social media sites and be part of the effort to 'reduce deaths, injuries, and property damage'. 
by many Africans

Correspondence from Manuela in the DRC: 

I can imagine that the people entered and robbed the school in the article you sent me, which is really bad, because I think it is pretty similar to Tshumbe and the surrounding region. For example, sometime last year, some children were killed by lightning in a school in Tshumbe and then the people also attacked the school, said that it was the fault of the director or the teachers, because they couldn't understand why the lightning hit the school. They thought (and still think) that the director or one of the teachers sent the lightning and killed the children. They even put some of the teachers and the director in prison, because police accused them of sending the lightning and the school was shut down.

The report I sent you some days ago (reported in The African Flash 2019-3 last month) about the six children who were killed by lightning was risky for our organization, too, because the hut where the children lived was next to our organization's compound and two of those children were students of our kindergarten and school.

The morning after it happened, lots of people came to look and see what happened. Then lots of policemen came; they investigated and wanted to know everything. They started accusing our regional coordinator of causing the deaths: that it was our organization's fault, and that we sent the lightning or someone of our team sent it, or someone who is close to us because they were jealous of those children who attended a good school. In reality the police only wanted money, because they know that I am from Europe and they are looking for accusations to get money.

Thankfully, the village chief came and told everyone that this had nothing to do with us, that no one sent the thunder, and that it was nature, and he sent the police away. 

But that's why my team always says that the children should stay home and not go to school on days when it looks like thunderstorms may come, because if a child gets hit by lightning in our school, then they may put us or our staff in prison and accuse them of murder.

Conclusion: All this is because the people don't understand lightning and have no education in it. They believe that someone sends the lightning to someone else if they have a problem with each other or a person who gets killed by lightning was a "bad" person (had several wives, hit his wives, stole things,..) If a child gets killed, then it could be that the parents were "bad" people but the child had to suffer from it. Or people get hit because other people are jealous of them and sent them the thunder.

It is very important to educate the people about it, which is not easy I think, because they won't change the beliefs they grew up with from one day to the other.

Thank you for sharing this tragic event! 
African Lightning Events for April
5 killed in Tshumbe by Lightning
1 April 2019
Read more from Citizen Reporter Manuela
Roodepoort woman killed by lightning strike, 
South Africa
4 April 2019
Read more
Lightning kills four people including a policeman,
Ivory Coast
5 April 2019
Read more
Electric discharge kills two brothers in Ganda,
9 April 2019
Read more
Lightning kills a pupil of CM1 during a game of marbles, 
Ivory Coast
11 April 2019
Read more
Electric discharge kills six members of the same family in Uíge,
23 April 2019
Read more
Click to find out how!
Lightning kills 5 in central Tanzania,
24 April 2019
Read more
Lightning strikes three children in West Pokot,
25 April 2019
Read more
Man struck by lightning after seeking shelter under tree,
South Africa
26 April 2019
Read more
Lightning kills 19 cattle at Paul Akura,
29 April 2019
Read more
Lightning kills one person, injures two others in Kisii,
29 April 2019
Read more

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