Burundi: Climate Impacts Hit Bujumbura

A displaced mother and  child in an emergency settlement. Photo credit: Red Cross Burundi

A displaced mother and child in an emergency settlement. Photo credit: Red Cross Burundi

By Genny Ndayisenga, Burundi Global Power Shift Participant

Sunday, February 9, 2014. It is 10:00 pm and  I stumble across posts from friends online who live in the northern suburbs of Bujumbura. They talk about heavy rains pouring down in their neighborhoods. Some even say they cannot go home because roads are flooded and no longer practicable. I can hardly believe these posts. It’s true it’s raining but I can’t believe the situation is that terrible. I end my day believing the posts I’ve read are nightmare-inducing exaggerations.

Monday, February 10, 2014 – 6:00 am. Reality hits.  I wake up, turn on the radio only to  hear a  reporter talk of destroyed houses and roads and  bodies have been found. The rain has caused a disaster of a kind I’ve never experienced in my entire life. The nightmare is now real.

An estimated 4500 houses were destroyed during the floods. Photo credit: Red Cross Burundi

An estimated 4500 houses were destroyed during the floods. Photo credit: Red Cross Burundi

 

I contact my colleagues at 350 Burundi. Some are already helping to provide emergency relief to the victims and have seen the damage. What they report to me is seriously alarming. They are barely able to express what they are seeing. As I leave the house to join them, my phone rings. I am told that one of my friends was found dead. He drowned in freak floods.

 

More than one hundred people died from the floods. Photo credit: Red Cross Burundi

More than one hundred people died from the floods. Photo credit: Red Cross Burundi

How could such a horrible thing happen in my country and to people I know? Some will say this was caused by a lack of drainage channels to let the water flow away; others simply talk about this being a  natural disaster. But I’m certain that these floods are part of the extreme weather events that are happening all over the world.

What we experienced in Burundi has already happened or is happening elsewhere. But it’s only when we directly suffer the impacts that we understand the seriousness of the threat and we realize that we must act to limit the damage.

While we mourn our dead, regret our homes and other property lost in the chaos, we need to hold onto the hope that leaders around the world will take unwavering measures against the climate crisis. This is what we need to continue to fight for.

Paying tribute to all victims of climate change disasters and saluting the work of worldwide climate activists!

  • The People’s Climate March was INCREDIBLE. Check out the photos and more at peoplesclimate.org

  • People’s Climate photos pouring in from around the world — check out the growing photo galleries here.

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