IRC Rushes Aid To Displaced After Rebel Attack In Burundi's Capital
The International Rescue Committee supplied emergency services for thousands of Burundians who fled northern and eastern regions of Burundi's capital Bujumbura late last month following a heavy attack by rebel forces.
Using machine guns, mortars and Katyusha rockets, the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), the main armed rebel movement, launched the attack on November 22 in mostly residential districts, prompting a swift response from Burundi's security forces.
The main roads leading out of the city to the north, east and south-east were all closed, and traffic in the city vanished as shops and schools closed and people fled in all directions, said Jan Coffey, the IRC program director in Burundi.
She said the echoes of combat in the hills could be heard throughout the afternoon, and the occasional rocket continued to fall on the outskirts of town during the evening.
The IRC soon began receiving reports that large numbers of displaced persons from the eastern areas of Nyambuye and Gihosha had fled to Mutanga and Kamenge, to escape both the rebel incursion and then the military counter-attack.
That evening the IRC coordinated with Oxfam GB and the United Nations (OCHA) to plan a speedy joint evaluation to assess water and sanitation needs of the displaced population, an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 people.
With water provided by the IRC, these displaced Burundians prepare a meal. (Photo: Ciaran Donnelly/IRC)
The team traveled to Mont Sion in Mutanga the next morning and found some 5,000 displaced persons crammed into a church and its surrounding grounds. The church is a regular point of shelter for people here during times of insecurity, said Coffey.
The IRC quickly brought in water to fill a large bladder (10 cubic meters) and materials to construct two temporary blocks of latrines. UNICEF supplied chlorine to disinfect the water and distributed high protein biscuits for children on the site. A rapid evaluation of other nearby sites discovered much smaller concentrations of IDPs and none in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
IRC's water truck made eight trips to the site during the next four days. As the situation calmed in outlying areas, the uprooted slowly began to return to their homes.
"Sadly, such attacks leading to the short-term displacement of affected communities are typical here," said Coffey. Given the frequency of insecurity and displacement around Bujumbura, and the high probability that Mont Sion will host IDPs again in the near future, there is a necessity to provide more durable facilities in this area.