Being on the mountains that overhang Bujumbura, you can see the sunset radiating on Lake Tanganyika. The view is fantastic and for an uninformed observer it would be difficult to say that drama has taken place in these beautiful mountains not long ago, taking lives and leaving several other families in a precarious situation. Despite of being relatively warm all year round in Bujumbura, on these mountains it is a little bit cold, and it gets chillier as soon as night falls, especially in the rainy season. This is where Cynthia, a 10 year old girl, is living. A few days ago, she was forced to leave her home in a hurry.
Cynthia, her mom, brothers and sisters escaped being swept away by overnight floods while heavy rains hit their village in the Northern part of Bujumbura city.
"Mom woke me up, I was in deep sleep, and urged me to follow her and flee for our safety. At that moment, I saw a lot of water in the room where I was sleeping. I was frightened”, says Cynthia.
In Uwinterekwa suburb, damages caused by the floods were huge: 14 deaths were counted, 33 injuries, 57 houses completely destroyed, 49 houses partially destroyed and 132 houses in danger of collapse. In total, 238 households (1,190 individuals) were affected.
Floods also affected other locations of Bujumbura like Buterere where municipal services reported 218 houses completely destroyed, 255 houses partially destroyed, 1,760 houses flooded and 3,740 people displaced.
Two months ago, landslides took lives of more than 20 people in Cibitoke province while many others left displaced.
After Cynthia’s family left their house, walls collapsed and a landslide took a portion of their plot of land. As they left their home, they got sheltered in a nearby school and later moved into a temporary site made up of tents.
Since then, the family split; 5 of them live in the tent and the other 2 stay with a family who volunteered to host them as they could not all stay in a single tent.
When Cynthia looks back, she remembers her belongings that were taken by water. “I lost all my school materials and uniforms, clothes, shoes, my bed sheets and even food”, the young girl recalls with sorrow.
Apart from the house that was destroyed, Cynthia’s mom lost her kitchen kits, clothes and any other things she had in her house.
Charities comfort people affected by floods
“I am compelled to stay here and rely on charities”, says the mother of 7, who before the tragedy could spend her days selling avocados and maize in the streets of Bujumbura. And with such a small business she could provide to her family.
Cynthia found herself destitute but is comforted by organizations and people of good hearts like World Vision International in Burundi.
Floribert Kubwayezu, World Vision HEA manager says the target of the organization is to support people in need as much as the organization can.
Thanks to World Vision’s support, 101 families were given clothes, shoes, kitchen kits, blankets, mosquito nets and mats. This support was greatly appreciated by beneficiaries.
Children affected twice by climate change
“Here it is cold. I was only putting on clothes that friends supported me with and covered myself with my mother’s loincloth. But, since World Vision gave us blankets, during nights I am safe from cold."
Even though Cynthia appreciates the support from charities, two things are still missing for her.
Her school that had temporarily suspended classes to host people affected by floods has resumed classes, but she can’t go to school. Asked why she can’t, Cynthia replies, “My school materials and uniforms were taken by floods”.
Staying in the site makes Cynthia uncomfortable. She hopes that soon she will get back home. “My wish is that Mom gets support to reconstruct the house so that we go back home”, she says.
However, her wish is likely to take much time to happen. Her mom, Christine, is in despair.
“It took me much money and time to build my house, and for the time being, I am doing nothing to earn money required for the reconstruction”, Christine says.
Even though she despairs, she has hope that God, who rescued them from floods, will still provide.
Resilience projects to address disasters’ impact
According to the Institut Géographique du Burundi weather forecast, heavy rains are to last until February. Recurrent climatic hazards exacerbate the vulnerability of Burundians. Last year (2019) 18,000 people have been victims of natural disasters says UNOCHA Sitreps.
World Vision in Burundi has concerns about community resilience and its ability to cope with disasters. Through our humanitarian and emergency affairs component, we are exploring the possibility of implementing resilience projects to help the affected families participate in the prevention of disasters.
Our focus for prevention of diseases in the sites is through hygiene promotion, says Floribert Kubwayezu, HEA Manager at World Vision in Burundi. We engage with UNICEF and other partners to see how to work together and ensure hygiene promotion in the sites already settled. We are also advocating for economic resilience for people who lost their belongings due to floods and landslides.