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A man wades through what is left of Bujumbura’s nautical centre. Photo IOM 2021/Armel Nkunzimana

 

'What are we going to do if the water does not stop rising?' That question has been on everyone's mind: Homeowners, building contractors and construction workers, farmers, market vendors, schoolchildren, commuters, and of course, development and humanitarian workers.

During the past two years persistent heavy rain, followed by floods, landslides, and strong winds, has raised Lake Tanganyika to dangerous levels, engulfing entire roads, markets, school playgrounds and churches. Welcome at first, the downpours soon began to wreak havoc on lives and livelihoods in the Republic of Burundi and across the entire sub-region. The world’s second-deepest lake – and as long as 600 km – is shared between Burundi, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Republic of Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and none has been spared from devastation. 

In Burundi alone, more than 52,000 people have been affected by flooding since March this year, according to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, although the real number is likely much higher. Almost half have been internally displaced and thousands of homes flooded.  

Entire fields of crops have been wiped out – a devastating loss of at least a year’s worth of food stocks for many of the more than 90 per cent of Burundians who rely on subsistence farming. 

Burundi is among the world’s 20 most vulnerable countries to climate change, as well as being one of the least prepared to combat it due to the exceptional severity of natural hazards. There were 127,775 internally displaced persons in the country as of May 2021, of which 54 per cent were women. Around 85 per cent of those displacements happened in the context of disasters.

It is cold comfort to note that the country’s emergency response is chronically underfunded. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only 17 per cent of the USD 194.7 million needed for the 2021 Burundi Humanitarian Response Plan has been met. Little additional funding has gone into IOM’s recently released Burundi Crisis Response Plan 2021. 

“Right now, people have no home to go back to. They don’t know when their next meal will be," says Michael Asima, Emergency and Preparedness Coordinator for IOM Burundi. “It is critical that we get more funding to respond to the immediate needs of the most vulnerable.” 

In the meantime, IOM’s emergency team and humanitarian partners, working alongside the Government of Burundi, have mobilized to respond to the most urgent needs of the most vulnerable people. Top of the list is access to safe shelter, clean water, basic hygiene services and protection support. 

The timing of the floods has an inescapable bitter irony to it; about the same time last year, roughly 30,000 people were displaced by flooding as the Rusizi River overflowed its banks. Many have been unable to return to their homes and continue to live with friends and neighbours, or in temporary shelter sites. The renewed flooding has further strained these host communities who are barely able to cope.

The cost of climate change 

Along some parts of the Burundi coast where the land is particularly low-lying, neighbourhoods have been abandoned, with many houses still under construction. Kingfishers dip and soar through broken windows and flourishing reeds that now fill living rooms in waters two metres deep. Invasive plants snake their way up walls and weave through unfinished roofing. The forces of nature have defiantly reclaimed the territory and forced thousands of people out.

“If this continues into 2022 the destruction will be enormous, requiring an inventory of the economic and human cost to design a recovery plan,” says Gabriel Hazikimana, Environment Director for Lake Tanganyika Authorities in Burundi.

According to data from the Geographic Institute of Burundi, the lake-rise is a cyclical phenomenon that occurs every 50 to 60 years. The current flooding is widely attributed to climate change. 

“In previous years when the lake rose, the rain would stop and give time for it to go back down,” Hazikimana said. “We just did a study that shows that the temperature in the region is likely to continue increasing, and this could mean more rainfall. We will see if next year there is a miracle.” 

Even if the level of the lake recedes, its sand base is at risk of contamination from polluted waters that have picked up trash and contaminated sediments (from latrines, for example). To get to school, children are forced to wade through the floodwaters, exposing them to the likelihood of illnesses such as cholera and malaria.

For the homeowners, the flooded houses represent a loss. Their foundations have been waterlogged for so long that they will eventually collapse, posing a major safety hazard to anyone who dares to return. 

Disaster risk reduction is a priority

This dire situation has placed the spotlight on ongoing efforts to boost Burundians’ resilience to such natural hazards.

Leading the way is the National Platform for Risk Prevention and Disaster Management and IOM Burundi’s Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) team. Together with OXFAM and with funding from the European Union, IOM Burundi is implementing the most comprehensive DRR project to date (officially launched 7 July 2020) and which will reach the whole country.

The resultant project is aimed at sustainably linking the humanitarian response with development efforts. 

In practice, this entails mapping out areas at risk of natural hazards in all of the country’s 18 provinces. Just as important, it evaluates the level of vulnerability and the country’s capacity to respond to disasters and the mobility impacts, while also assisting national authorities to develop informed and up-to-date contingency plans per province.    

Building a robust DRR response also requires boosting the technical expertise of national and local authorities, in addition to supporting vulnerable communities to access innovative techniques and tools to better prepare for and respond to disasters. One such technique is the Vulnerability Risk Assessment, an existing tool that IOM Burundi built on to empower communities to better cope and minimize their vulnerabilities by identifying all risk factors. 

"We must better align response strategies to displacement and civil protection plans with our national plan for development and risk reduction," said Gral. Anicet Nibaruta, Head of National Platform for Disaster Risk Management, Burundi.

Another innovative tool in the pipeline is an online platform that will centralize all datasets, maps and reports in user-friendly formats. This will give stakeholders easy access to the information, results and recommendations used and generated by the project. 

Not less important is raising awareness on disaster prevention, mitigation and on how to respond to an emergency. IOM and the Government of Burundi envisage partnering with national media to help implement prevention and response measures through early warning messages and sharing information that reaches the wider population.

Alongside these efforts to prevent future emergencies, IOM Burundi continues to provide direct assistance, with shelter and non-food items for example, thanks to funding by the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States Agency for International Development and the Central Emergency Response Fund of the UN. 

Greater funding is still needed, however, to provide a more comprehensive response; both to the increasing number of people affected by the floods and to prevent even more disastrous impacts. - International Organization for Migration

Aggrey Awori was laid to rest in a grave he dug for himself 10 years ago. Photo The Observer

 

The former ICT minister and legislator, Aggrey Awori was yesterday Saturday laid to rest at his country home in Kibimba village, Bugiri district in eastern Uganda. Awori succumbed to COVID-19 on July 5 aged 82.

Nafula Awori, the deceased’s daughter says that prior to contracting COVID-19, Awori has been battling several health complications ranging from kidney failure to hypertension over the years. She, however, says that Awori’s condition worsened after testing positive for COVID-19 on June 19. 

“Mzee came for his usual routine checkups in Kampala in February and we conducted several checkups but, health workers advised us to retain him within the city center area for better management. However, he turned frail in June after contracting COVID-19,” added Nafula.

Baisama Awori, also one of Awori's children says their father was a pan-Africanist who taught them unity in diversity. 

“Our father was a pan-Africanist who sponsored us to study from different schools within the East African region, which continuously inserted in us the values of living together as Africans, irrespective of originating from different countries,” he says.

Even Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta in a condolence message read at the burial, described the fallen legislator as a pan-Africanist. The message was delivered by Kenya's former Ambassador to Japan, Denis Awori, also a member of the Awori family in Kenya.

"Awori was a pan-Africanist. Leaders within the East Africa region should emulate him to foster both political and economic integration' said Uhuru. Awori's elder brother Moody Awori was once Kenya's vice president Moody Awori between 2003 and 2008. 

Meanwhile, Dokolo district Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal says that Awori was a smart politician who laid foundations to foster East African political integration, despite facing endless criticism from different political actors within the country.

Ogwal further tasked members of parliament to agitate for Africa’s economic integration, as it will scrap off trade barriers and in turn foster smooth trade operations within the continent.

Awori's neighbours and constituents were kept away from the burial as per the COVID-19 regulations. He was buried in a grave he dug for himself 10 years ago. - URN/The Observer

 

NAIROBI, July 9 (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government and bilateral partners have embarked on training a critical mass of maritime cadets as part of efforts to boost the growth of the country's nascent blue economy, officials have said.

Nancy Karigithu, principal secretary in the State Department for Maritime and Shipping Affairs, said bridging the skills gap is key to establish a vibrant blue economy in the country, create jobs for the youth and alleviate poverty.

"In order to steer the blue economy to greater heights, there is an urgent need for highly skilled and qualified maritime personnel," Karigithu said on Thursday at a premier training center for seafarers in the coastal city of Mombasa.

She said the state-owned training center for maritime professionals had secured apprenticeship opportunities with French shipping giant CMA CGM, to enhance skills and competencies in Kenya's maritime sector.

Karigithu said that maritime cadets will also benefit from training on shore-based shipping and port operations, enhancing their employability in the international shipping industry.

She said Kenya has prioritized investments in the blue economy to boost tourism, sustainable fisheries, climate resilience and job creation for coastal youth.

"Our goal is to ensure the youth acquire the requisite skills and know-how to enable them to compete favorably for emerging opportunities in the blue economy," said Karigithu.

She said Kenya has developed a conducive policy and regulatory framework to spur investments in the blue economy and achieve long-term development.

Karigithu said that the ecological health of Kenya's vast coastline will be key to foster the growth of the blue economy, boost food security, climate resilience and local manufacturing.

Kenneth Mwige, director-general of Vision 2030, said Kenya is well positioned to become a blue economy hub subject to skills development, friendly regulations and partnership with industry.

Mwige said that revitalizing Kenya's maritime and shipping industries will boost cross-border trade, skills transfer and inclusive growth along the coastal strip grappling with rapid population growth. - Xinhua

Photo Courtesy Daily Nation

 

Education and Research Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi has urged scientists to research miraa and marijuana to establish their advantages and disadvantages to human health.

The research will help Kenya find a market for the products internationally, he said.

Lack of scientific evidence on the advantages of the products, he said, had led people to perceive them as illegal.

Mr Nabukwesi spoke during the official opening of the second phase of the Pwani University Bioscience Research Centre at Pwani University in Kilifi.

He said anything perceived to have negative effects on the community might also have advantages for it.

"We are being told that consumption of miraa is a health hazard but how dangerous is it to someone's body when they chew the crop," he said. 

"Our researchers should tell us the benefit of miraa so that people can know its benefits."

The research centre was financed by the Kenya National Research Fund.

The PS said Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea are among the countries known to have a high consumption of miraa and can provide Kenya with a good market.

"There is a need for people in countries that record high consumption of miraa to know the value of chewing the crop and this can help us expand our markets internationally," he said.

The PS said that huge quantities of miraa were being sold in the United Kingdom but its government issued a ban on imports of the product.

"Kenya has failed to convince the UK that consumption of miraa is beneficial. If there is scientific evidence to prove the gains of miraa, I believe that we could be having an open market for it," he said.

"Even the community could have demonstrated, demanding miraa to be sold in their country because of the health benefits." 

He said the issue of miraa and marijuana use cannot be approached only politically but also scientifically.

"One of the governors went to the UK to plead with them to allow his community to sell miraa but no one could listen to him because he had no scientific evidence of the benefits of this product he was defending," he said.

He challenged universities to come up with plans to identify research champions to encourage more research.

"Providing a conducive working environment and equipment for research is a way of encouraging more scientists to embrace their work, knowing that they have a great role to play in society," he said.

"Acknowledging research champions is also one way of supporting research."

He said the research champions will also be honoured during public holidays. 

"We are going to recognise all researchers (who come up with innovations) that will help change and improve human life in one way or the other," he said.

Kenya National Research Fund CEO Jemima Onsare said the research centre was set up at a cost of Sh100 million.

The Fund, however, has not been getting the level of funding it needs for research, she said.

"The National Research Fund needs to be allocated two percent of the overall gross domestic product that is supposed to come from the national government ... . Currently, we have not attained the two percent but we are operating at O.8 percent," she said.

The first phase of the research centre was officially opened in 2017.

Pwani University Vice-Chancellor Prof Mohamed Rajab said the facility meets international standards.

The National Research Fund is also supporting research programmes at Rongo, Egerton, and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga universities. By Maureen Ongala, Daily Nation

 

The 2021 energy progress report has listed Rwanda among 20 countries in the whole world that have extensively rolled out electricity to their communities over the past 10 years.

The report is a product of a partnership between the World Bank and bodies such as the International Energy Agency that is published ahead of the launch of the first United Nations High-Level Dialogue on Energy in decades, which is due in September.

The report also underscores the importance of policies that promote an enabling environment for fast growth in line with the SDG target 7.1 which is universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy services.

Highlighting the countries with the highest electrification pace, Rwanda emerged among the top 20 countries with an on-grid electrification covering 38% in 2019 whereas the annualized increase in access rate from 2010 to 2019 stood at 3.1%.

“Several countries stand out for their annual rate of growth in access between 2010 to 2019. Rwanda, a small country located in Sub-Saharan Africa where a majority of the global unserved population live, is a good example”, reads the report in part.  

The report also commended Rwanda’s electrification efforts to expand access at tremendous rates: “Rwanda’s annual electrification rate was greater than the world average between 2010 and 2019 and in the 2017–19 period, annual access growth in the country outpaced its population growth”.

Other African countries on the list include Kenya, Uganda, Lesotho, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania, Liberia and Togo.

Rwanda’s electrification access has been scaled up from 10% in 2010 to 65% percent in mid-2021, latest figures from Rwanda Energy Group indicate.

In the figure, 47.2% connected to on-grid and 17.8% accessed through off-grid systems (mainly solar).

Rwanda’s target is to have 100% access to electricity in households by 2024.

To achieve the development, reads the report, the government of Rwanda employed an off-grid sector so as to leave no one behind by lowering the price consumers pay for power and making solutions affordable to the poorest households.

“Rwanda decided to launch an end-user subsidy pilot in 2019 to complement supply-side subsidies that were not enough to reach certain customers”.

With implementation support from the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) and Energy Development Corporation Limited, according to the report, Rwanda’s government is delivering a consumer subsidy scheme valued at USD 47 million for solar home systems and clean cooking solutions. - Bertrand Byishimo, The New Times

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