100,000 lose homes as lake banks collapse

21Sep 2021
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
100,000 lose homes as lake banks collapse

​​​​​​​CLIMATE shocks, mainly the rapid rise of Lake Tanganyika, caused unprecedented internal migration in Burundi in recent years, a global NGO says.

Save the Children, a UK-based charity says that floods, storms and landslides led to a new displacement crisis in the region where at least 103,305 people were dislodged due to effects of climate change.

In a statement released over the weekend, it said that Burundi is among the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change. It has the most people living along the shores of Lake Tanganyika among the four countries bordering it, it stated. 

Bernard Sindayihebura, an environment management professor at the University of Burundi, said that the

lake — Africa's second-largest — rose to 776.4 metres above sea level in April compared to the normal average of 772.7 metres, due to storms, flooding and landslides.  

Numerous homes and farms were inundated as a result, with hundreds of families being displaced. In a survey early this month, those interviewed said they have no hope of returning home because their land had been lost to the swollen lake.

Communities in three other lakeside stated of Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo were also affected as during the past two years, persistent heavy rain and floods, landslides and strong winds raised Lake Tanganyika to overwhelm a portion of inhabitants near its banks.

“People described waking up at night to find their homes and farms swallowed by the lake. Entire fields of crops were wiped out,” the agency affirmed.

Over 90 per cent of the country’s population lives in rural areas and depend on agriculture and livestock, with small landholdings, double- or triple-cropped plots are mostly rainfed, farmed by hand, and produce little or no marketed surplus.

The country faces the burden of impacts of global emissions and is poorly adapted to climate change (ranked 171 out of 181 countries in the 2015 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index).

Burundi has one of the highest fertility rates in the world and its children have been uniquely affected by the crisis, the agency underlined. Displacement camps are overrun with children, with Gatumba camp, harbouring 3,000 flood-displaced people, having over 80 per cent of residents as children.

Children have to wade through floodwaters to reach school and are exposed to illnesses such as cholera and malaria, on the basis of remarks by Maggie Korde, Save the Children's country director for Rwanda and Burundi:

The world seems to have forgotten Burundi, and yet it's bearing the brunt of global climate change, with children the most affected, she stated.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that lack of funds has direct consequences on the planned assistance, also negatively impacted by living conditions of the most vulnerable populations.

Save the Children called on the international community to urgently fund Burundi's humanitarian crisis, with focus on ensuring child-centred investments and helping poorer countries manage unavoidable impacts.

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