Pray for Families Affected by Fire in Burundi
Written by Plant With Purpose on January 29, 2013 in General
News reports are starting to come in about a major fire that destroyed the main market in the capital city of Bujumbura, Burundi, on Sunday. Plant With Purpose’s Africa programs officer, Christi Huizenga, is currently in Bujumbura. She witnessed the smoke and flames, and has passed on some insights about the fire’s impact:
Facts About Burundi:
Burundi is one of the five poorest countries in the world and has a recent history of violent conflict that parallels that of Rwanda. Of the 79 countries tracked by the 2012 Global Hunger Index, Burundi is ranked last, meaning it has the highest level of hunger of all the countries surveyed. Burundi’s GDP per capita was $600 in 2012 (CIA). Inflation is at 11.8%, and the price of food will most likely shoot up as a result of this fire (previous blog post on Burundi’s inflation rate).
The fire broke out on Sunday morning and lasted into the evening. The thick smoke filled the entire city, creating panic. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but we do know it will cause serious setbacks to Burundi’s economy.
The Bujumbura Market:
The market, which mainly sold clothing and household goods, generates between $2.5-3.9 million USD a day—the largest economic activity in the country on a day-to-day basis. The building had security presence, which made it a safe place for vendors to store their cash—an alternative to local banks, which charge exorbitant fees.
The scope of the damage is huge. The individuals who trade in the market will experience an obvious loss, but the entire country’s economy will be affected. Most traders take out loans to buy goods in the countryside. They then sell these goods at a higher price in the market, repay their loans, and keep the profit. For many, the loss of assets and the prospect of facing creditors was more than they could handle. Quite a few traders risked running back into the burning market to save what they could. One death has been reported.
In addition to goods and infrastructure, many traders lost significant amounts of cash. The market had been one of the most secure places to store operating cash needed for business. Reports estimate that as much as $1,000,000 USD in cash could have been lost in the fire.
Smaller, impromptu markets have started to sprout up, but they do not have the security or the size of the now destroyed facility. The city center is currently closed, and people are assessing the damage.
• Pray for the many Burundians left with physical effects of the fire.
• Pray for secure locations to set up new markets.
• Pray for individuals who have taken out loans, that there will be grace in forgiving loans or extensions for payments.
• Pray for the government to take action to gain the resources necessary to respond to future disasters.
• Pray that Plant With Purpose will be able to support those who have experienced loss. It is being said that no one in Bujumbura will be untouched. The effects of tragedy will also trickle down to rural families outside the city as merchants are unable to purchase goods from them.
Plant With Purpose has seen tremendous results from our programs in Burundi. If you would like to contribute to long-term solutions to economic recovery in Burundi, donations can be made here.
Thank you for your prayers and support during this time of concern.
Jan. 30 update: The damage will be far more than $50 millions USD. A commission has just been put in place and we shall know clear indication of the loss in near future.