Parts of Burundi are ruing floods that have destroyed property and displaced people in the past two years.
The floods, due to rising water levels on Lake Tanganyika and heavy rainfall, engulfed farmland, roads, markets, school playgrounds and churches.
About 52,000 people have been affected by floods since March 2021 according to United Nation’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix.
The tracker has identified 127,775 internally displaced persons in 28,569 households, of which 85 per cent have been due to natural disasters and 15 per cent from other reasons across the 18 provinces of Burundi.
The IOM said devastation linked to effects of heavy rain on the world’s second-deepest lake has affected Tanzania, Zambia and the DR Congo which share about 600 km of the water body.
Lives in the sub-region bordering Lake Tanganyika have been disrupted but Burundi bore the greatest brunt of the floods as it is among the world’s 20 most vulnerable countries in terms of both preparedness and emergency response to natural disasters.
Since 2018, some 445 natural disasters have affected nearly 270,000 Burundians and displaced 100,000. Given that Burundi’s emergency response is underfunded, makes the delivery of humanitarian assistance that much harder. According to Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only 17 per cent of $194.7 million needed for the 2021 Burundi Humanitarian Response Plan has been met.
“The displaced have no homes to go back to and do not know when their next meal will be. It is critical we get more funding to respond to immediate needs of the most vulnerable,” said IOM Burundi emergency and preparedness coordinator Michael Asima.
The IOM, humanitarian partners and the Burundi government have joined hands to cater to the needs of the most vulnerable, prioritising access to safe shelter, clean water, basic hygiene services and protection support.
The floods occurred about the same time as last year when an estimated 30,000 people were displaced by flooding as River Rusizi overflowed its banks.
“Many have been unable to return to their homes and continue to put up with friends and neighbours or in temporary shelter sites. Renewed flooding has further strained host communities who are barely able to cope,” said IOM.
In low-lying parts, the waters have reclaimed territory and forced thousands of people out, leading to whole neighbourhoods being abandoned.
“If this continues into 2022 the destruction will be enormous, requiring a full inventory of the economic and human cost to design a recovery plan,” said Lake Tanganyika Authority Environment Director Gabriel Hazikimana.
The Geographic Institute of Burundi says the current flooding is widely attributed to climate change and general rise in temperatures.
The foundations of buildings have been waterlogged for long raising the likelihood of collapse, posing a safety hazard to anyone who dares to return.
The dire situation places the spotlight on efforts to boost Burundians’ resilience to natural hazards. IOM Burundi’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) team and the National Platform for Risk Prevention and Disaster Management are leading the way.
Together with Oxfam and with funding from the European Union, IOM Burundi is implementing comprehensive DRR project officially launched in July 2020.
The project aims to link the humanitarian response with development efforts. It entails mapping out areas at risk of natural hazards.