Weeks of torrential rain have hit Burundi affecting 45,000 people and sweeping away thousands of homes and businesses, leaving 18,000 people newly displaced.
Three large displacement sites for victims have emerged around Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, where thousands are living in temporary or makeshift accommodations.
There are concerns the new displacement sites could increase their risk of contracting COVID-19, due to their overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) under the coordination of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other UN agencies are moving to reduce risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 during distributions of shelter, hygiene kits, and other types of emergency support.
Over 2,100 victims of severe flooding and mudslides in the country are receiving help from IOM.
A mother of four and widow, Violette Nshimirimana, is among those receiving emergency help. With the support of IOM, she’s been given emergency shelter, after her home was destroyed by the floods.
“We are farmers. We couldn’t save anything”, she explains, adding, “We just took our children and left. Our houses fell on all our belongings after we escaped. We need a small plate to eat on, a small pot to cook with and small mats to sleep on with our children. We have nothing at the moment.”
IOM Burundi is also planning to provide non-food items such as blankets, kitchen supplies and mosquito nets and additional shelter to another 300 displaced families.
IOM Burundi’s Emergency Coordinator, Sam Derbali, says “the destruction we have seen here is unlike any other recent disaster and has left thousands of vulnerable people without homes, at a time when having a safe place to shelter is essential for slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
IOM and other humanitarian organisations are calling on partners to increase efforts to provide additional shelter, food, hygiene and sanitation facilities.
“It is our collective duty to ensure that displaced people have access to hygienic living conditions and that all responses are consistent with humanitarian principles”, says Derbali.
IOM also is helping to identify those at high risk of exploitation and organizing information sessions related to protection issues for victims of flooding.
IOM is being supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The supported activities are in line with Clean Water and Sanitation and Sustainable Cities and Communities SDGs.