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Thousands homeless and without food after floods in Burundi

© UNICEF Burundi/2007
A child walks through standing water in front of a flooded home in Burundi.

By Val Wang

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, 26 January 2007 – Massive flooding hit 13 of Burundi’s 17 provinces last week, leaving thousands of families homeless and without food and drinking water.

Even before the floods swept away crops, Burundi was already facing a precarious food situation. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), at least 70 per cent of Burundians are undernourished. Existing food stocks are insufficient to cope with the crisis and 800,000 people may face starvation.

The government has declared food emergencies in six provinces, calling for international help and citizen donations.

UNICEF and WFP jointly support 220 therapeutic feeding centres across the country. “If you have a flooding situation where people are already struggling to access food, the situation worsens,” said UNICEF Representative in Burundi Bintou Keita. “We know that we will have to intervene in the therapeutic feeding centres, looking to our target population – the children.”

© UNICEF Burundi/2007/Jamar
Authorities distribute safe drinking water in Gatumba zone, Bujumbura Rural Province, where recent flooding has triggered an outbreak of cholera.

Assessing children’s needs

The flooding has also interrupted schooling for children. Besides destroying schools, the floods have displaced more than 17,000 people – many of whom have sought temporary shelter in classrooms, making them unusable for classes.

UNICEF is supporting government efforts to contain the situation. Through its partners, the Burundi Red Cross and the International Rescue Committee, UNICEF is sending supplies – including soap, water purification tablets, and jerry cans to carry potable water – to the affected population in Bujumbura Rural Province. Meanwhile, WFP is supporting affected families in other provinces.

The flooding, which also destroyed latrines and safe water sources, has already triggered an outbreak of cholera in Bujumbura’s Gatumba zone.

UNICEF is sending a team to the flood-affected areas to assess the needs of children and their families – including protecting them against infection, ensuring access to safe water, preventing malaria and re-establishing schools.




25 January 2007:
UNICEF Representative in Burundi Bintou Keita talks about the precarious situation resulting from last week’s flooding.
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