The perfect Easter gift

BUTERERE – 36-year-old mother of four, Nadine HAKIZIMANA tucked her children in bed and zoned out hoping to wake up refreshed the following day. While resting beside her husband, the rain began to pour. It was a silent, peaceful night but as time went by, heavy rains and winds surrounded her home to the point that none of the parents could remain asleep.

Fortunately, for Nadine and her husband, the children were awake as well. The alarming sound of homes tumbling down in Buterere shook the Hakizimana family and they then decided to escape from their house into the streets. The streets of Buterere 2 A were flooded with waves. Nadine while struggling to find safe grounds for her children looked back at her 1 bedroom house. She thought of important house items, cooking utensils, legal documents and equipments to retrieve but as she processed this in her mind, a huge wave took down her home. Devastated but without time for sadness, she kept on going with her husband and children towards safer grounds.

The morning after, Nadine and thousands of other IDPs made their way to ECOFO Mobile, searching for temporary shelter. On this ground, they endured longer nights whilst in desperate need of food and shelter. Nadine and her husband would exchange roles searching for casual work during the day while waiting for relief support.

Nadine searched for families and cooperatives in need of manual laborers to farm or sell rice and vegetables. Prior to being homeless, she earned between 1000 and 3000 Burundian Francs (USD 0.5 to USD 1.6) on a good day. However, she was not always as lucky so there more days without earnings nor able to support her family. On a monthly basis, she did not earn enough to save, often what she earned, she used to reimburse debts. She dreamed to do more than this; however, the situation became worse without a home.

The weeks after that, the Help a Child team conducted field missions in Buterere to provide emergency shelter and NFI Kits for 149 IDP households most affected by heavy rains and floods. Among these, HAKIZIMANA Nadine arrived with her husband and their children at the Buterere administration office in desperate need for support to find shelter. After waiting in line for about half a day, she heard her name.

It was the perfect Easter gift for Nadine to open the door of her new home. She unpacked jerry cans, blankets, kitchen utensils, washing powder, soaps, loincloths and clothes entering her new home. The children were thrilled, her husband gave her a tight hug and together they prayed thanking God for the support received.
Although her family’s situation hasn’t completely changed, Nadine is hopeful that God is able to take care of her family. The same God who rescued them from the floods, the same God who replaced lost house items, the same God that provided their families with a new home. While recognizing the support received, Nadine however makes an appeal for Help a Child and other well-wishers to further support IDPs in Buterere by improving their socio economic situation through vocational training and business development projects.

To put this into perspective: Buterere has not changed. Its inhabitants have limited access to medical care. Houses still standing have become even more expensive after the floods due to their scarcity so IDP families are once again struggling to cover rent fees. Children have restricted access to quality formal education and life skills development programs in the community. These poor livelihood conditions have resulted in an increasing number of street children, child laborers, people with fragile mental health, prostitution as well as illegal substance abuse by youth within a few weeks after the intervention.
Prohibited entry commercial activities such as livestock breeding and farming in urban areas continue to increase the pool of the unemployed workforce in Buterere. Poor local infrastructure expose the already vulnerable people to preventable natural disasters. The boarders that facilitate trade between Burundi, Rwanda and DRC are closed. There are flight and shipping restrictions limiting exports and imports of products; so this is not the right time to engage businesses in corporate social responsibility events.

Nevertheless, for what it’s worth, someone believes there better days are ahead. “We know that God loves us and we believe that one day our daily struggles will be a testimony and message of hope for others,” Nadine concludes.

About Buterere
Buterere is a town in Bujumbura best known as a dumpsite and hosting ground for diverse groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs). In total, Buterere plays host to a population of 72,534 people grouped in 12,760 households as of December 2019. On a seasonal basis, this population faces heavy rains, torrent winds and floods that often result in the people of Buterere being displaced until the end of the rainy season. This has occurred so often in recent years that local authorities have requested for families to relocate. However, each request has fallen on thorny grounds. Buterere is well known for its large population of unemployed people and street children. Most adults, youth and children in this community try to make ends meet through casual work, family labor and begging in the streets.