Climate shocks forced over 100,000 to flee home in Burundi

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Burundian refugees walking to Nduta refugee camp in Kigoma, northwest Tanzania, on October 7, 2015. There has been a more than normal spike in Burundian refugee arrivals in Uganda, UNHCR says. PHOTO | OXFAM | AFP

Natural disasters sparked by climate change have forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes in Burundi in recent years, British charity Save the Children said in a new report released on Monday.

It said climate shocks, not conflict, were now the main cause of internal displacement in the landlocked East African country, which has a largely rural population.

“Over 84 percent of all internally displaced people in Burundi have been displaced due to natural disasters rather than conflict, mostly due to the rise of Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s second-largest lake,” the charity said.

Children have been particularly hard-hit, it said, adding: “An estimated 7,200 of the displaced people, or 7 percent of the total number, are babies under the age of one.”

Older children are unable to attend school, with many surviving on just one meal a day, the charity said.

Arielle, a teenager whose home was swallowed up in the middle of the night by the lake’s rising waters, told Save the Children she struggled to eke out a living, earning $1.20 (one euro) a day for carrying and stacking bricks.

“I eat most days, but some days I miss meals altogether,” the 17-year-old said.

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