The cost of climate change extremes: over 4,223 households in Burundi ravaged by the flooding of rivers; Rusizi, Kajeke and Mpanda
Published: 09 June 2021
The rise of the waters of the three rivers is as a result of the steadily rising water level of Lake Tanganyika to which they are tributaries.
Lake Tanganyika’s water level has been gradually rising for more than a year ago and has now reached a level so worrying for the people living around it; the situation is further worsened by heavy rains that are affecting most upstream Nile basin communities during this period.
According to the Geographical Institute of Burundi (IGEBU), the cause of the rise of Lake Tanganyika’s water is twofold, heavy non-seasonal rains in the sub-region in the countries bordering the lake (such as Rwanda, Tanzania and the DRC) and the overflow of the Lukuga river (a tributary of the Lualaba river in the DRC) which normally constitutes an outlet for the lake. According to metrological forecasts the rains are expected to continue for continue for some time.
The damage caused by these floods is unspeakable; most households are displaced and currently accommodated either in host families or in houses under construction, in collective centres, and some families remain in their houses although they are partially submerged in water. In addition to submerged and inhabitable homes, roads have become impassable, rice-growing fields have been ravaged by water runoff, economic activities have been paralyzed, essential infrastructure are submerged in water, education of children is undermined and the hygiene situation is becoming more and more serious; there is a fear of being attacked by water-borne and vector-borne diseases.
At Mushasha I & II fundamental schools of Gatumba Zone in Mutimbuzi Commune, Bujumbura Province, classrooms, latrines, and offices were partially submerged following these floods. Some students from these establishments had to leave, to go and stay in halls of churches and mosques. A section of students stay on site but with a lot of difficulties especially in case when nature calls - they go to latrines of houses in the neighbourhood of the school.
Civil protection supported by humanitarian organizations including the RED CROSS and IOM, under the supervision of the governor of Bujumbura province, intervene by using boats in the flood affected areas to evacuate victims and their property. Several police and army trucks took part in this casualty evacuation operation.
Government representatives including the Minister for Interior, Community Development and Public Security, the Minister for Environment, Agriculture and Livestock, and the Minister for National Solidarity went to the scene to observe the situation. They asked the residents of the river banks to vacate the area immediately. The governor of Bujumbura province, Mr. Désire Nsengiyumvaa called on humanitarian organizations and all benefactors to come to the aid of the victims. Those affected and without shelter are taken to the Maramvya assembly site, commonly known as ISOBEL.
From the CSO angle FCBN (Burundi NDF) has planned to assist victims as part of a community engagement activity - subject to availability of funds.
In conclusion, the floods from the Rusizi, Kajeke and Mpanda rivers caused a lot of material and economic damage. The victims seriously need urgent assistance because they have lost everything and are currently living in total desolation. The government of Burundi, its partners, and donors are called upon to take urgent measures to not only protect the riverside population and their property but also engage in activities that are geared towards environment protection and resilience; the issue of climate change is a matter for everyone.
Author: Fabrice AHISHAKIYE
National Technical Support Expert - Burundi