Flood victims in Burundi anxious as rainy season sets in

Saturday October 09 2021
Sikitu Nyabenda

Sikitu Nyabenda at her temporary shelter at the displaced people’s camp in Gatumba on the outskirts of Bujumbura. PHOTO | MOSES HAVYARIMANA | NMG


It is double tragedy for the more than 1,300 Burundian families who were displaced when their homes were flooded by the rising water levels of Lake Tanganyika and the swelling rivers around Bujumbura early this year.

The floods left more than 30,000 people homeless, and now with the onset of rainy season, their temporary camps in Gatumba on the outskirts of Bujumbura are in danger of being swept away as the rainy season starts.

According to the local administrators at the camp in Gatumba, there are about 4,500 children with at least 2,500 of them of school going age.

Nyabenda Sikitu, a 52-year-old widow and mother of three, has been living in this camp for more than a year. She lost one child in the first lake floods. “My fourth child, who was epileptic fell in the water when he got an attack, and no one was around to rescue him. He drowned,” she said.

Ms Nyabenda, who lost her husband in the 2015 political crisis, is among 100 women in the Gatumba camp. “Before arriving at this camp, we lived in a church for more than two months after my house was swept away by the floods, then the government brought us here temporarily hoping to relocate us to safer areas,” she said.



The government had promised to provide land and shelter to the flood victims. In May, the government said that more than 2,000 people had been evacuated to Maramvya.

However, Nyabenda said “only about 90 people have been provided with land we are still waiting for our turn.

“The tents here are old now, and soon the rain season will start. It won’t be easy because I have three children we cannot all sleep in the small tent. So my son goes and sleep at the neighbour’s,” she said.

Although the flood victims are being provided with healthcare by the government and other organisations, not all the children have access to education.

Ismael Regan, an official from Burundi’s Ministry of Solidarity, said the government has provided learning centres inside the camps. “Now we try to keep the young children and youth busy with studying here in the camps to prevent them from bad behaviour that sometime includes early sex,” he said.

Lake Tanganyika which is shared by four African countries is a source of food, drinking water and transport.

and many other amenities to millions of people who live in the lake basin and beyond.

Burundi government introduced a law that protects water bodies that only allows the construction of private buildings only beyond 150meters away from the lake, the space of 150metres is used for the plantation of trees but only those who got special authorization can build near the lake.