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Landslides and flooding in Rwanda affect our local partners

An update from Tearfund’s Emmanuel Murangira on the church response after deadly landslides and flooding in Rwanda.

Written by Tarryn Pegna | 05 May 2023

Tropical green landscape in Rwanda stretches away to the horizon

The landscape in Rwanda is tropical and rains are expected, but the recent rainfall has been too heavy and prolonged, causing flooding and landslides. Credit: Pete Dawson/Tearfund

Unexpected heavy and prolonged rain in parts of Rwanda have caused flooding and landslides, killing over a hundred people and destroying homes, crops and infrastructure – including in communities where we have church partners. In one of these communities alone, 53 people have died.

Urgent needs

Emmanuel Murangira is Tearfund’s Country Director in Rwanda. He explains the situation: ‘As of now, thousands of people have been displaced from their own homes and are camping in schools or churches that are on high ground and where there is no risk of landslides.

‘Obviously, there is a need for food because people have left their homes in a hurry in fear of landslides and floods.

‘The other thing is that drinking-water sources are destroyed when we have landslides and flooding – so the water becomes contaminated with things like sewage and dead animals.

‘People also don't have the money to purchase food, because normally they would rely on what they produce – but now their ability to produce is lost.’

At the time of writing, the rains still continued.

‘ [Tearfund] gave what we could immediately and we are trying to find resources to enable the local church partners to respond in a more robust way.’
– Emmanuel Murangira, Tearfund’s Country Director in Rwanda.

Supporter generosity

Thanks to the faithful generosity of many supporters, Tearfund has an emergency fund that is set aside in preparation for this sort of situation. Because of this, we have been able to start responding through local church partners immediately, particularly to meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable – the elderly, children and also breastfeeding mothers and those in poor health.

‘We are in and out of meetings and we keep getting more updates of people dying, of people being displaced, of roads being cut off by flooding and landslides,’ says Emmanuel. ‘And in fact, there are very few access points, so it makes it very critical for us to move fast and to respond to this.’

The church response 

As is often the case, local churches – well-placed in the centre of their communities – have been among the first to respond. Emmanuel tells us, ‘We have two partners who work in these places who have the capacity to respond. The Presbyterian Church has a big network in at least four of the districts in the western province, and also our existing partner African Evangelistic Enterprise has a big coverage of the north and the south, where the need is greatest at the moment.

‘Sometimes, the churches are also affected themselves, but even when they are affected, they are still very much active and responding.’
Emmanuel Murangira, Tearfund’s Country Director in Rwanda

‘The churches started calling us right from the start [of the disaster] and asking us for support so that they can respond – because local churches are in the middle of the community. Sometimes, they are also affected themselves, but even when they are affected, they are still very much active and responding. They are close to the people and they know what's going on. They have real-time information on how people are affected in those areas, and they are able to respond very quickly. For instance, some of the churches had already started collecting food and clothing to get to people that need it. But it’s difficult, because the people who are giving might not even have enough themselves

‘But they were the first ones to actually send out an SOS to people and to ask to be able to respond. [Tearfund] gave what we could immediately and we are trying to find resources to enable the local church partners to respond in a more robust way.’

Climate disaster

Rwanda is one degree south of the equator, with tropical rainforest in parts. This means that rains are not uncommon in Rwanda, but Emmanuel explains that, in the last couple of years, the weather patterns have changed.

‘We've seen different phenomena. Rains come in late, and they're heavier than usual. And we seem to be falling into a cycle of flooding and landslides. It's a mountainous country and it's also densely populated, so there are very few areas that are not farmed.

‘Because the rains are coming late, and when they come they're unusually heavy, the soil becomes loose and begins to move. And, of course, we get floods as well. So, most crops have been destroyed. This means we are getting into a time of difficulty. People who are poor are going to get poorer. They're going to get hungrier – even those who would normally have enough food.’

The BBC reports that ‘Rwanda's weather authority is linking the unusual rains seen in recent years to climate change. Many factors contribute to flooding, but a warming atmosphere caused by climate change makes extreme rainfall more likely.’

‘People who are poor are going to get poorer. They're going to get hungrier – even those who would normally have enough food.’
Emmanuel Murangira, Tearfund’s Country Director in Rwanda

Tearfund crisis response

With the money released immediately from our crisis response fund, Tearfund has started work by supporting the local Presbyterian Church. They are responding to the immediate needs of more than 10,000 families in the western parts of the country. In areas where markets are still functioning, people affected are receiving cash grants as this is the fastest way of getting food to them. Where the markets are not able to function, food is being sourced from neighbouring markets and, where possible, being trucked in.

Crucially, they will also work to get safe water for drinking and cooking to places where people have taken shelter, as well as various other essential items, such as clothing, to protect people from the cold temperatures during the night.

Emmanuel has shared three ways that he is asking us all to pray for the situation in Rwanda and for the people affected.

You can also give to our disaster fund or to ongoing work supporting local church communities in places like Rwanda.

Pray with us for Rwanda

    • ‘First of all, pray for God's intervention. We're not praying away rain, but we are praying that God gives us rain that is adequate – that is enough, but that is not destructive.’
    • ‘The second thing is to pray for people who are displaced – that they will find help and be able to return to their lands, or find new places to live and have a roof over their heads.’
    • ‘The third thing is, we ask you to pray for us as we respond to all this because we don't know what will happen next. These are natural disasters, so we don't know which direction they are going. They might increase and we fear that if it keeps on raining, things could get worse.’

Written by

Written by  Tarryn Pegna

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