Homeless seek permanent solutions

Hundreds of families forced from their homes in the 1990s, as well as former refugees, who are living in informal settlements on the outskirts of Bujumbura, the capital, are seeking a lasting shelter alternative to cramped temporary sites.

"I am ashamed, I sometimes send some [children] to get shelter in other homes," Consolate Ndikumana, a resident of the Beterere site outside Bujumbura, told IRIN. "You cannot share the room with grown-up children; it is not possible to live like that."

Ndikumana's family is one of 342 now living in Buterere after being relocated from the flood-prone Sabe area in May 2011 where they had initially settled. At Buterere, the situation is not much better, with families living in cramped conditions; Ndikumana's family of six shares a 15 sqm plastic tent.

"During the day, the tent is very hot and very cold in the night," added Marie Jacqueline Keza, another resident.

The families were supposed to have been resettled at the Maramvya area in Bujumbura Rural's Mutimbuzi commune, in 2011, where each household would have been allocated a 270 sqm plot.

But there have been challenges to the resettlement, according to officials.

"There was some confusion in the lists of beneficiaries," said Anicet Nibaruta, secretary of the National Platform for the Prevention of Risks and Management of Disasters, which coordinates emergency aid, noting there were also some illegal beneficiaries on the lists.

A topography study of the area has also yet to be released to allow for the building of the houses at Maramvya.

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"We are working on it day and night," said Nibaruta.

The lack of access to land has led to a life of dependency for the Buterere residents.

"When we arrived here, we were only given the place for our tents, but no land," Buterere resident Marc Ngendakumana said.

The residents have resorted to engaging in petty jobs, such as working in rice plantations.

"When it is not raining, we help in the transportation of bricks. If you transport 1,000 bricks, you can easily get 1,500 francs [US$1.07] per day," added Ngendakumana.

"We might be in difficult living conditions there [in Maramvya], even without food, but the place will be our own home."

Among the families are those who were initially forced from their homes in the 1990s in the suburbs of Bujumbura when the main Hutu and Tutsi ethnic communities were living separately; others are former refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.