Flooding in Northern Bujumbura has Affected Many: CEDAC Investigates

The night of Sunday, 9 February 2014, was a beautiful warm evening in Bujumbura until about 8pm when a savage storm blew in. The storm started with thunder and lightning, then the rains began. It rained very heavily and as time went on it began to flood northern parts of Bujumbura, including Kamenge, Kinama, Buterere and Ngagara. The worst affected areas are Kamenge, Kinama and Buterere where there was extensive damage to property and many lives lost.

In these regions the Centre for Training and Development for Ex-combatants (CEDAC) operates a program of psychosocial support network for women living with disabilities and female survivors affected by war. The psychosocial support programmes run by CEDAC leads to psychosocial assistance in either an individual or group setting around income generating activities. Today CEDAC has travelled out to meet with both peer-to-peer support workers and beneficiaries of the programme to evaluate the impact that the storm and subsequent flooding had.

Upon arrival in Kamenge, we were met by road workers and locals repairing the damage around the market area. The whole area was affected by the storm which severely damaged the market, creating a flood that washed away many of the houses in the surrounding area.

While people worked tirelessly to remove the mud and debris caused by the flood we went and met with the Kamenge psychosocial support workers and beneficiaries at a local school.  What they had to report was troubling. Many houses had been flooded or completely washed away in the rains; two of the peer workers have lost their homes and watched as their possessions washed away. A group of beneficiaries who had started an agricultural project to provide a much needed income had all their hard work destroyed by the rains. As survivors of the floods gathered in Rukundo, Buyengero centre, it became very apparent that it would be difficult to provide provisions to people who are starving.  

In Kinama the situation was in many ways worse, the local Nyabagere River was swollen with the rains, washed away a bridge and many houses. When CEDAC arrived we discover that the local soccer ground had been turned into one of many sites for makeshift accommodation: there were many tents already erected. The area was a hive of activity, filled with people affected by the storm and aid workers constructing more tents, general sanitation and the distribution much needed food and cooking utensils.

The people affected by the storm are in urgent need of clothes, bedding and food. 

In amongst all this activity CEDAC met with the Kinama psychosocial support team and found that the situation was dire for many affected people. The team reported that many people had lost family members when their homes were destroyed. One such lady reported that she had lost five children when her house was demolished. This unfortunately is not an uncommon story, in Kinama, a beneficiary of psychosocial work had family members visiting from up county, five members died when the house collapsed. A peer support worker expressed a fear for visiting a beneficiary who had also lost five children in the floods, not wanting to interrupt the mourning. 

The psychosocial support networks are finding it very difficult to offer peer support to those traumatised by war. The flooding has made group work and individual visits virtually impossible as it is unknown where everybody is or in fact, whether or not they are even alive.

With many people now living in temporary accommodation across the region it is very difficult to locate those in need. One support worker explains that where she had been working was completely washed away and now she is travelling to different transit camps in the hope of finding people. Many of the beneficiaries now find themselves isolated from friends and loved ones who are in different areas of the town.

The work done by the psychosocial support network is going to be more important now than ever in helping those affected by war and now flooding. Many people have been deeply affected by the events of Sunday night, loosing not only their homes and lively hoods, but also loved ones. It is vitally important that CEDACs teams of peer-to-peer workers be assisted so that this valuable work can continue.  

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