Gatumba – In Burundi’s Gatumba commune, located thousands of kilometers away from Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt where world leaders are gathered for the annual United Nations Conference on climate, thousands of people uprooted from their homes by the rising waters of Lake Tanganyika remain displaced.
“The lake (Tanganyika) destroyed our house” says Zainabu Hatungimana recalling how she lost her family home.
Zainabu together with her four children and husband lived on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Magara neighbourhood, Rumonge province, where the rising waters of the Lake Tanganyika flooded and destroyed thousands of houses in April 2021. Zainabu, who returned to Burundi after spending years as a refugee in Tanzania’s Mtabila camp was hoping to have a better future in her country.
“We were asleep, and when we woke up the house had a crack on the side facing the lake. The crack stayed there for a whole year, but one day, we were sitting outside with the children when suddenly the house collapsed. Thank God no one was inside the house,” said Zainabu.
There are an estimated 84,000 internally displaced persons in Burundi and more than 90 percent of them were displaced by climate-related disasters, according to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).
Globally, Burundi is among 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change. The situation could get worse as climate change is intensifying the occurrence and impact of natural hazards.
In the aftermath of a disaster, people’s lives, living conditions and routine become deeply affected and disrupted. Still, disasters force some of the most vulnerable populations to live in terrible conditions.
In Burundi, thousands of people including children, were moved to camps near the shores in Gatumba where they lived in makeshift shelters, with little to no access to water, sanitation facilities, or education and medical care.
Nahimana Evangeline, 56, lives in the Magara neighbourhood. She was forced to accommodate two of her sons and their families in her home after their houses were destroyed by the flood waters. Now, she has 10 people living in her house.
“We live like that now,” she said. “Having to provide for more people has strained my finances.”
IOM is working jointly with the government of Burundi and local communities to uplift the lives of those affected by climate related disasters. The construction of shelters for 599 displaced households has been going on in Rumonge, Nyanza Lac and Bujumbura provinces since June 2022. IOM is also building water and sanitation facilities and providing nonfood items to the affected families.
“The construction of semi-durable shelters in natural hazard affected areas is providing internally from the extreme weather conditions they face daily. It is particularly crucial for women, who represent more than 55 per cent of the displaced population in Burundi,” explained Pauline Maguier, IOM Burundi’s Shelter / Non-Food Items Officer.
In addition to this lifesaving assistance, IOM is also taking into consideration the protection needs of the displaced populations.
Communities like the ones in Magara understand why it is important to work together to rebuild their homes and communities after natural disasters occur. The construction of the shelters would never have been possible without the active engagement of the whole community and sharing of knowledge and resources.
Aside from the provision of a shelter to those in need, and enhancing social cohesion, these construction activities are also acting as a source of livelihood to host communities.
Those who participated in the constructions of the new shelters received money as part of the cash-for-work mechanism which targets the most vulnerable members of the community.
With the assistance of the risk mapping conducted by IOM’s disasters risk reduction unit and the Government of Burundi and through disaster risk reduction construction techniques, the new shelters are built away from floods prone areas. The risk mapping is a nation-wide assessment of risks associated with climate related hazards including torrential rains, flash floods, landslides, strong winds and earthquakes. It is an online platform that compiles disaster risk information to aid risk analysis.
“Now we have hope. Only a short time is remaining to complete the work,” said Anatole Ntihabose, who was displaced with his wife and their ten children.
The activities described in this storyteller are implemented through the financial support of the United States' Bureau of Populations, Migrants and Refugees (PRM), the Federal Republic of Germany (GFFO), the United States' Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the People of Japan (JSB) and the European Union.