World Red Cross Red Crescent Day: team work brings swift response to floods in Burundi

Published: 4 May 2007 0:00 CET

The theme of this year’s World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which takes place on 8 May, is “together for humanity”. Celebrations will be held to mark the annual event and highlight the importance of local, regional and global partnerships in carrying out humanitarian work.

As part of a four-part series to mark 8 May, we look at how strategic partnerships and alliances have enabled the International Federation to respond effectively to alleviate the devastation caused by flooding in Burundi.

In early 2007, torrential rains across much of Burundi led to floods that claimed lives and caused widespread damage to homes, social infrastructures and crops.

Hardest hit was Gatumba in Mutimbuzi commune, Bujumbura Rural province. Here, homes and sanitation were completely or partially destroyed. There was no safe drinking water and the population were exposed to a high risk of epidemics.

The Bujumbura Rural province Red Cross branch immediately mobilized its emergency response team. Volunteers quickly disinfected the surviving houses and other flooded areas with chlorine to prevent disease, while others assessed the damage and immediate needs of residents.

They held hygiene and health education awareness sessions and monitored the population for cases of cholera, referring any people with symptoms to the nearest health centre.

A permanent partnership agreement between the Burundi Red Cross and UNICEF also made a marked difference to the emergency operation. Through it, UNICEF supplied non-food essentials, such as soap, jerry cans, blankets and water purification tablets, for 1,187 families. That’s around 6,000 people. These were distributed by Red Cross volunteers following established and efficient distribution procedures.

With the immediate emergency phase now over, the Red Cross is looking ahead to help affected residents return to a normal way of life.

Gatumba is located near Lake Tanganyika and the area is therefore at risk of future flooding. People have occupied land with no prior planning. The infrastructures, including the now destroyed basic sanitation facilities, are haphazard and vulnerable to further natural emergencies.

Therefore, the National Society, with the support of the International Federation, is arranging temporary shelter for residents, while working to make villages in the area better prepared should they be hit by flooding again.

Disaster preparedness and risk reduction are two of the key components of the International Federation’s worldwide efforts to make vulnerable communities stronger and safer.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian organization, with 190 member National Societies . As part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, our work is guided by seven fundamental principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality. About this site & copyright