Donna Bloomfield brings a report of the situation in Bujumbura, following extensive flooding which took place at the beginning of February.
I’ve just returned from Burundi, one of the world’s poorest nations where Hope for Tomorrow Global in helping bring hope and transformation. I’m there often, but this visit was not like any other.
Overnight on February 9th, Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi, was hit by 10 hours of torrential rain, resulting in horrendous flooding, landslides and mudslides. Over one hundred lives were lost that night and many hundreds more were injured – people were trapped in houses that collapsed on them, others were swept away in flood waters, many were engulfed in mud.
Huge boulders and rocks were swept down from the surrounding hills by torrents of water, carving up roads and fields, changing the landscape and destroying everything in their path. In places the scene felt almost apocalyptic, with whole areas flattened, apart from the odd remaining tree, damaged and bent over, rubbish and bits of clothing left strewn over it.
Over 1,800 homes have been totally destroyed, leaving well over 12,000 lives displaced, forced to ‘live’ in tented camps. Some are sheltering in church buildings or have moved to be with friends and relatives. Others who don’t have these options are trying to survive in shelters made from whatever can be found: branches, straw, cardboard and bits of plastic sheeting.
With our Burundian friend Evariste, I visited one of the worst affected areas, Kamenge. We spent some time in the community visiting some of the families who’d chosen to remain there, rather than being moved to one of the Red Cross camps nearby. It was a heart-wrenching visit.
Some of the devastation caused by flood waters
Within minutes, as we talked to a group of ladies, we were told of an especially tragic story of a neighbour – all five of this lady’s children had died when their bedroom collapsed on them. How can you comprehend such loss, so sudden, so unexpected, so tragic?
As we walked on, we were shown the remains of homes – or, often no remains, just empty spaces where houses used to be. In one place, Evariste pointed to a single mud-brick wall, the only part left standing of a family’s home. On top of the wall, hanging over the corner, filthy from the mud, was a piece of child’s clothing. “Two people died here,” he told me.
A few children left in the area began to follow us around asking us for food, telling us they were hungry, as they’d not eaten in days. Others asked us to help them continue their studies as the local school has been destroyed by the rocks and floods. Some asked for work as livelihoods have been lost also. Many asked for nothing at all, but you could see the desperation in their eyes – they seemed empty, still in shock, some clearly still traumatised. A sense of helplessness and hopelessness hung in the air.
It’s wonderful to be able to report that recently, thanks to generosity of Hope for Tomorrow Global supporters, and together with the people of Gateway Church Swindon, we have so far been able to send over £10,000 to help buy food for the most vulnerable in this community and others nearby. In some ways it’s a drop in the vast ocean of need, but to the 2,000 people who have received food so far, it’s no small thing. Over 30 tonnes of have been distributed to date.
Meanwhile, plans are being made to help support this community in Kamenge in the months and years ahead. There is ‘hope for tomorrow’ for our new friends and we want to stand with them and demonstrate the love of God to them by supporting them practically as they seek to help them rebuild not just their homes, but their lives.
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