In the face of flooding, response efforts must continue
In April and May 2021, rising waters from Lake Tanganyika and the Rusizi River Delta flooded the coastal communities of Bujumbura, Bujumbura Mairie, Makamba and Rumonge provinces. More than 50,000 people were affected by the floods, and of these, 20,000 had to leave their homes. Prior to the floods in Gatumba (April and May 2021), a total of 4,924 people (1,733 households) were still living in displacement sites (Kinyinya II, Maramvya Sobel, Mafubo, Kigaramango). In addition, around 46,000 people were affected, with 18,000 displaced by floods in the April-May floods of 2020 in Bujumbura Province, Gatumba area. According to IOM figures, 10,171 people (2812 households) live in the Gatumba sites (3,702 people in Kinyinya II and 6,469 in Maramvya Sobel and Mafubo) and 1,703 households displaced in Rumonge province, and 657 in Makamba province.
Following the needs assessment conducted in May 2021 by humanitarian partners, in collaboration with Burundi's National Platform for Risk Reduction and Disaster Management, a six-month response plan developed to meet the multisectoral needs identified. The plan includes all sectors of intervention and aims to meet the food needs of displaced people by using cash and distributing agricultural inputs; provide shelter to people who have lost their homes; ensure access to water (including drinking water), hygiene and sanitation (distribution of Water Hygiene and Sanitation (WASH) kits) and the construction of emergency latrines. The plan also provides for regular monitoring of the protection of vulnerable people (women, children, people living with disabilities, and the elderly) to promote access to basic social and protection services, including protection against Gender Based Violence (GBV) by paying attention to women and girls and prioritizing assistance to households headed by them. Profiling of displaced people is being validated to better guide and prioritize responses. To date, humanitarian actors have reached 47,338 people (9,468 households), or 72.8% of the 65,000 people (13,000 households) targeted by the response plan.
Multifaceted and multisectoral efforts by the Government of Burundi, humanitarians, the public and private sector, characterized by assistance in kind and cash, has made it possible to accommodate the poorest households, provide food assistance to the affected populations, as well as stabilize the nutritional status of children. Latrines in IDP camps have also been illuminated to reduce the risk of violence, particularly gender-based violence.
The Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2021, guided by the risk analysis conducted in the Humanitarian Needs Overview, anticipated, among other things, the risk of further flooding during the March – May rainy season, and planned activities to mitigate the effects. During the floods in May, the emergency response was constrained by inadequate contingency stocks in intervention areas, as well as lack of funding in HRP which was at 15.3% at the beginning of May with just under $30 million received. The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) provided $1.5 million as part of the "rapid response" framework to address identified needs such as shelter, food assistance, and WASH that were urgent. Other funding, such as DERF (ECHO) and DFID's Start funds, helped to maintain the acceptable level of response.
One of the activities in the relocation response plan, was to build semi-permanent shelters on plots outside risk areas. This is lagging because the plots identified are no longer available. This operation could therefore take time, leading to displaced households remaining on sites longer and develop a dependency on humanitarian aid. The relocation activities are part of the key sustainable solutions that will limit the impacts of possible future floods.
Humanitarian actors have also faced technical challenges and are unable to access drinking water in the Gatumba sites, water pumps in Sobel site and Civil Protection tankers supplying drinking water in Kinyinya II site have also broken down. This has led to displaced persons receiving eight (8) litres of water per day instead of the recommended 15 litres. The efficient and economical solution to the water problems would be connecting to the hydraulic network of the Regideso.
With climate change effects being felt globally, there are concerns that flooding will recur in Burundi in the coming rainy seasons. It is important to prioritize the establishment of early warning mechanisms, and for humanitarian actors to strengthen their preparedness activities to limit the adverse effects of disasters. This should include replenishing of emergency stockpiles to provide immediate response in the event of a large-scale natural disaster.
Humanitarian actors will also need to intensify collaboration with development partners in implementing mitigation measures and to strengthen vulnerable people’s resilience to withstand future shocks. Greater resilience would reduce needs and thus humanitarian assistance. Preventing resettlement in flood-affected areas and establishing durable solution for those assisted should be prioritized and implemented to achieve resilience.