Mental Health in Burundi
The aftermath of the long-lasting Burundian Civil War manifests as poverty, trauma and inequality in Burundi. These factors devastate the mental health of people in Burundi; depression, anxiety and PTSD are common in adults and children alike.

An Overview of Burundi

From 1993 to 2005, the Republic of Burundi, a country located in East Africa, endured a violent civil war stemming from ethnic conflicts between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. Although the civil war officially came to an end 17 years ago, ethnic violence and injustice persist, causing many to live in fear or flee as refugees. Furthermore, the long-term impacts of the civil war linger in the form of poverty and mental illness.

According to the World Food Program U.S.A, Burundi ranks as one of the most impoverished nations globally, with a staggering poverty rate of 65%. Furthermore, on the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI), Burundi ranks 185th out of 189 nations. “The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.” Burundi’s ranking places the nation “in the low human development category.”

With 12.2 million citizens crammed into 9,920 square miles, overpopulation and food insecurity are major problems. Malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are common causes of death in Burundi. COVID-19 and a lack of adequate medical care exacerbate poor living conditions within the country. These factors push mental health treatment to the back burner.

Case Study

The aftermath of the war created a ripple of trauma for many citizens. A 2018 study by Nkengurutse and Bitangumutwenzi illuminates the severity of mental health in Burundi. The study included 120 subjects from ages 15 to 55. The results were frighteningly dire: 100% of patients had some form of moderate to severe mental illness. About 57% suffered depression, 20% had “psychotic features,” 13% had bipolar disorder, 8% received a schizophrenia diagnosis and 65% were victims of trauma.

Subjects remained as inpatients for about 20 days. Mental health stigma (60%) and “poor economic insertion” (90%) stood as barriers to full recovery. After a year, 30% of treated patients reported a full recovery while 42% went into relapse. This study illustrates the sheer volume of Burundians that struggle with mental illness and the factors presenting barriers in mental health recovery.

The Good News

Sports unite warring factions of Burundi, reducing the ethnic tensions prevalent across the nation. Burundi recognizes sports as an outlet, never missing a Summer Olympic Game since its first debut in the Olympics in 1996. Athletes from Burundi also compete in the African Wrestling Championship, winning gold and silver medals. Among women, soccer offers many females a source of income, providing a way to use their talents to make a living, the Guardian explains. Soccer also grants these girls and women independence and freedom, a rare commodity for many Burundian females who often face parental pressures to marry as teenagers. Athletes provide role models for young Burundians and boost morale throughout the country, directly improving mental health and confidence.

Why Mental Health Matters

Poor mental health directly correlates with poverty. The Psychiatric Times observed that childhood poverty may lead to depression and anxiety, a decline in school performance and an increased rate of “psychiatric disorders in adulthood.” This impact on education is evident in Burundi as the nation’s literacy rate stood at about 68% in 2017, well below the world average of 86%.

In addition, poverty has direct links to depression, anxiety, psychological distress and suicidality. This causal relationship between poverty and mental illness creates a constant loop that is especially dangerous in Burundi where it is extremely difficult to escape the cycle of poverty. Poverty leads to poor mental health, which impedes the ability of individuals to pull themselves out of the depths of poverty, thus worsening their mental states. In 2019, the Mental Health Innovation Network stated that “90% of people with mental illnesses have no access to treatment, especially in [impoverished] and rural areas.”

Organizations Assist

While UNICEF’s mental health services in 2020 gave 160,000 Burundian children access to mental health resources, partially alleviating the issue, there are still millions of Burundians in need of mental health treatment.

Human Health Aid–Burundi (HHA Burundi) is a nonprofit that “medical students, psychologists and social workers” established in 2005. The organization works with Burundian communities, “especially children and women who suffer from anxiety, depression, trauma and other psychosocial consequences of their war experiences,” to improve “access to mental health care and psychosocial support.” HHA Burundi also provides direct aid to refugees by sending clothing, food and other necessities. Through programs such as Health School and Sanitation Training in Burundi, HHA Burundi transforms lives.

In addition, UNICEF secured $9.8 million worth of funds for Burundi in 2020 for the provision of education, food, medicine and other humanitarian needs. Aid lessens the economic and emotional strain in Burundi, therefore, contributing to positive mental health.

While addressing mental health in Burundi is a matter of urgency, several organizations are stepping in to assist. Furthermore, sport provides citizens an outlet for trauma, giving Burundians a source of hope in a war-torn country. As organizations strive to push mental health to the forefront of foreign aid, the hope is for Burundians to receive the mental health assistance they require to thrive.

– Mariam Abaza
Photo: Flickr

Burundian Refugees
Burundi is a country in East Africa comprising three ethnic groups of the same cultural background, history and language. The Hutu and Tutsi groups are responsible for years of war that plagued the Burundi communities. After 12 years of war, a ceasefire went into effect in 2005, ending the Burundian Civil War. However, Burundian refugees are just now returning to their homes after initially fleeing their violent living conditions.

The Civil War left approximately 200,000 people dead, and many displaced. To prevent attacks, civilians had to enter camps, which resulted in malnutrition, disease and death. The war resulted in a 19% increase in poverty between 1994 and 2006. According to the World Food Program (WFP), Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with more than 50% of the population living in poverty.

The Fleeing of Burundian People

Many Burundians fled to surrounding countries due to the war, political inconsistency and human rights violations. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled Burundi since 2015. Many refused to return until it was safe.

The majority of Burundian refugees, more than 200,000, resided in Tanzania. Rwanda hosted more than 80,000 in the Mahama camp, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) held 45,000.

Underfunding became an increasing problem with many of the refugees living in camps. People had limited access to resources such as food and classrooms, and shelters began to deteriorate. Experts determined that approximately 2 million people in Burundi were food insecure during October 2017.

The Efforts to Make Refugees’ House a Home Once More

Although the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and partners have not encouraged refugees to return, they are working with relevant governments to assist those who do return to Burundi. In 2018, UNHCR and its partners launched a Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan for that very reason of support. More funding is necessary to sustain a large amount of returning refugees.

Included in the refugee return package are household items, three months rations, cash and non-food items. The cash grant increased in 2020 from $75 to $150 an adult and $35 to $75 a child. The increase is to ensure sustainability for three months.

Making a Safe Return Home

President Ndayishimiye’s call for refugees to return home finally occurred in June 2020. Since then, convoys of around 1,500 refugees are arriving in Burundi every week. Now that the political tension has subsided, refugees have the opportunity to return safely.

A 2021 Burundi Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan that UNHCR created is also in place. The 2021 Burundi Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan goals are to implement livelihood projects, increase the value of companies, strengthen programs to access and improve health services, water and sanitation, education, social protection and human rights.

Additionally, the community developed a joint response plan along with Burundian authorities to ensure a stress-free return, a safe environment and access to food, shelter, water and sanitation, education, health and job opportunities.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR and partners are working to ensure a safe transition from camps to Burundi. COVID-19 symptom checks, rapid tests and social isolation are all mandated.

Overall, the success of this plan is dependent solely upon funding. Burundian refugees could potentially build their lives and create stability with support from the community itself, UNHCR and partners and the Government of Burundi.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Delay in Administering Booster Shots
In early September 2021, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other WHO officials called for a delay in administering booster shots until the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more accessible to low-and middle-income countries. While wealthier nations are already offering booster shots to their fully vaccinated citizens to protect against COVID-19, other low-income countries, such as the African nation of Burundi, are just recently rolling out their first round of vaccines. WHO officials argue that these doses of booster shots would be more beneficial in ending the global pandemic if countries allocate them to developing nations instead.

Prioritizing Developing Nations

This is not the first time WHO officials called for a delay in administering booster shots as Ghebreyesus previously recommended the postponement of boosters until at least the end of September 2021. However, with many nations disregarding this request, the WHO is now calling for nations to pause booster shots until the end of 2021.

Burundi, a poverty-stricken country in Africa, has noted more than 12,000 cases of COVID-19 as of September 1, 2021. However, Burundi accepted its first supply of COVID-19 vaccines only in August 2021. Thus, at this point, a significant portion of the nation remains unvaccinated. These circumstances stand in stark contrast to countries such as Israel that are now offering booster shots to all vaccinated individuals ages 12 and older.

Each booster a nation dispenses comes with opportunity costs. Researchers argue that every booster shot a nation administers constitutes an inoculation that could go toward vaccinating an individual from an underdeveloped nation. These booster shots in wealthier countries ultimately deprive many at-risk populations within low- and middle-income countries of a chance at surviving COVID-19. Without a majority vaccinated population, these nations struggle to thwart the overall spread of the virus in their countries.

The Need for Booster Shots

While Ghebreyesus accepts that higher-risk portions of the population may benefit from booster shots, he believes boosters are unnecessary for low-risk groups. “We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated,” he said. Furthermore, WHO officials maintain that there is a lack of evidence to suggest that booster shots are beneficial for protecting against COVID-19. Until this proof is available, vaccine doses will likely be more useful if the world prioritizes redirection and distribution of these shots to developing nations.

Compliance for the Moratorium on Boosters

Despite the initial failure of the first moratorium placed on booster shots, WHO officials believe that this time, nations are taking the moratorium more seriously. WHO official Dr. Bruce Aylward has stated that several countries are taking this plea into consideration, delaying their distributions of booster shots. Additionally, some vaccine manufacturers are pledging to supply lower- and middle-income countries with vaccines rather than wealthier nations that already have an ample supply.

As of September 1, 2021, about 73% of the global population was not vaccinated. Many of these unprotected individuals come from underdeveloped nations with lacking resources. Meanwhile, several wealthy nations are administering booster shots to healthy individuals. As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to prioritize global vaccine equity as even one nation without adequate protection from COVID-19 means the whole world is without protection.

– River Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare successes in BurundiIn Burundi, over 65% of people live in poverty. The country has the highest rates of malnutrition in the world, the presence of disease is widespread and only 32% of children make it through the equivalent of middle school. Despite these statistics, recent healthcare successes in Burundi are creating many improvements for the country.

5 Healthcare Successes in Burundi

  1. USAID providing health services. Burundi’s health systems aren’t adequate for the 11.5 million people living there. Fortunately, outside organizations are supporting the country. USAID has backed efforts in Burundi that assist with child and maternal services, HIV/AIDS, malaria and malnutrition. By providing support for the Government of Burundi’s plan for HIV/AIDS prevention, USAID has also assisted in expanding control for and education about HIV. Besides HIV, there is currently a malaria epidemic in Burundi. Since 2019, there have been six million cases, but USAID has introduced treatment, prevention and testing options to the country, helping to combat malaria and trace the spread of infections. About 56% of children in Burundi live without access to the necessary amount of food, but USAID hopes to curb these numbers. The organization offers supplements and nutrition lessons to pregnant mothers and young children to assist with malnutrition. The services that USAID provides help the Burundi healthcare systems in multiple aspects. They have allowed for improved service delivery, better treatment for childhood diseases and viruses and more accessible medicine and assistance during pregnancy.
  2. A $5 million grant in response to COVID-19 from the International Development Association. On April 14, 2020, this grant was approved by The World Bank and gave Burundi the chance to build up its health services as the COVID-19 pandemic began. Burundi was originally not in a position economically to handle this pandemic. The grant has given the country more access to testing, equipment, facilities and health professionals. Along with this, it has helped to reduce the spread of the virus through strategies that improve communication and tracking within the country.
  3. Improved financial access to healthcare in Burundi. In 2002, Burundi implemented a policy to perform cost recovery and provide financial relief to citizens that can not afford necessary healthcare. This exemption allows more citizens to get proper treatment and not be concerned about being forced further into poverty because of medical bills.
  4. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations was launched at The World Economic Forum in January 2000. This alliance includes the World Health Organization, The Gates Foundation, UNICEF and many similar organizations. It aims to provide more access to new vaccines to children in countries like Burundi. Between 2005 and 2008, the Alliance donated $800 million to 72 underdeveloped countries to help increase vaccinations, fund health systems and provide healthcare services. This assistance created many new healthcare successes in Burundi. For example, Burundi has trained more people in midwifery, meaning there has been an increase in safe, assisted births. The country has received an average of $3.26 million annually from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. Additionally, healthcare workers have received more training and there has been increased coverage of immunizations.
  5. Reduced HIV/AIDS and new health ministries. From 2000 to 2013, HIV infections decreased by 46%. Civil conflict in Burundi between 1993 and 2003 caused the rapid spread of HIV in the country and a fractured health system. The government initially divided the health and HIV/AIDS ministries, causing political turmoil. But then non-governmental organizations stepped in, started HIV-specific clinics and offered incentives to health personnel working with HIV.

What Does This Mean for Poverty in Burundi?

These healthcare successes in Burundi are creating economic, social and physical improvement for the country. Malnutrition, the rate of disease and poverty are all decreasing. These operations expand beyond just healthcare, though. They reach every aspect of living in Burundi. They create opportunities for more children to thrive in school and more people to go to work. Ultimately, these opportunities lead to economic growth and a more sustainable country.

– Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Burundi
Burundi is a landlocked East African country bordering Tanzania and Rwanda. The majority of its population faces extreme poverty, with 65% of Burundians falling below the poverty line. In Bujumbura, the country’s capital, agricultural workers earn an average wage of 3,000 francs ($1.82) per day. In rural areas, the minimum wage is a third of the capital city’s, forcing rural workers to make ends meet on less than a dollar a day. Many Burundians lack access to clean water and basic sanitation and less than 5% have electricity. In addition to a high rate of extreme poverty, political instability and widespread violence have led to an increase in human trafficking in Burundi.

Trafficking in Supply Chains and “Cash Crops”

The Education Policy Data Center found that, as of 2014, 62% of Burundians aged 15-24 never complete primary education. Child labor is common, especially in agriculture. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Government of Burundi found, in a collaborative study, that child labor was commonly used to harvest “cash crops” such as coffee. Forced labor also occurs, sometimes because of human trafficking.

Gold mining is another Burundian industry plagued by human trafficking. According to the U.S. State Department, children and young adults often fall victim to forced labor in the gold mines surrounding the city of Cibitoke. The U.S. State Department also finds that traffickers try to recruit people they know into forced labor.

Children are the most common victims since they are easier to mislead and exploit for monetary gain. Burundi’s primary catalysts for human trafficking are its major industries. Implementing anti-trafficking protocols within these industries and refusing to buy exports produced using forced labor and trafficking would go a long way toward ending human trafficking in Burundi.

The Impact of Human Trafficking on Burundian Families

Young women and children are especially vulnerable to human trafficking. Many leave their families because of traffickers’ false promises of “good jobs,” which women and children see as their only chance to escape poverty. Human trafficking also causes emotional trauma for families with members who have been trafficked. NGOs working in the area believe that between 500 and 3,000 young women from Burundi became trafficking victims in the Middle East between 2015 and 2016.

OLCT, a Burundian NGO that stops transnational crime, reported that at least 527 girls and women arrived in Middle Eastern countries in 2017 as a result of human trafficking. Additionally, more than 250 girls and women arrived in the Middle East in 2018. According to the chairman of OLCT, Qatar is the most common place internationally trafficked Burundian girls end up in due to preparations for the 2022 World Cup.

Human trafficking in Burundi and the exploitation of young girls for monetary gain is a major problem in Burundi. However, ending human trafficking is possible with the proper prevention programs. Burundians stand to benefit both emotionally and economically from greater support from both the African and international communities in preventing human trafficking and keeping families together.

Ending Human Trafficking in Burundi

In April 2021, the Ugandan police intercepted a human trafficking caravan in transit to another nation. The police saved 29 Burundian girls and arrested and charged five human trafficking racket suspects. According to a Ugandan police spokesperson, the girls’ destination was likely the sex trade. Uganda is a cut-through country for traffickers bringing girls into other countries. Human trafficking in Burundi and Africa as a whole will end only if bordering nations cooperate with each other. Uganda’s rescue of 29 young girls displays what can happen when nations work together.

The Burundi Counter-Trafficking Project

Gaston Sindimwo, the vice president of Burundi as of 2019, says that fighting human trafficking requires universal respect for human rights and the understanding that human trafficking is a global issue. In 2019, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) partnered with the Burundian Government to launch Burundi Counter-Trafficking, a project to strengthen the government’s capacity to fight human trafficking.

The Netherlands has fully funded the $3 million project, which will run until the end of 2022. Caecilia Wijgers, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Burundi as of 2019, stressed the need to protect people suffering exploitation and deception. Funding from the Netherlands has limited the number of trafficking rackets in the past few years and has allowed Burundi to work with its neighbors to stop trafficking throughout the continent.

The Burundi Counter-Trafficking project is helping reduce human trafficking in Burundi. However, much work still lies ahead in order to end the exploitation of Burundians and ensure no more families suffer as a result of human trafficking.

– Curtis McGonigle
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts about the Burundi Refugee CrisisBurundi is a country in East-Central Africa with a population of about 12.2 million. Trying to escape violence in their home country, thousands of Burundians have fled and become refugees. These people seek shelter in several different countries, and as of October 2020, there are more than 150,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania, according to Human Rights Watch. The Burundi refugee crisis comes with heartbreaking tragedies. Sadly, Burundian refugees face many obstacles for protection and are often forced to return to Burundi against their will.

Here are five facts about the Burundi refugee crisis.

  1. The Burundi refugee crisis began in 2015. After serving two terms, Burundi’s former president, Pierre Nkurunziza, was expected to step down. When Nkrurnziza refused to do so, civilian protests began and lasted for months. The military responded with violence and targeted civilian killings. Unrest and state-sanctioned human rights violations caused hundreds of thousands of Burundi citizens to seek refuge in surrounding areas. The conflict has killed more than 1,700 people since 2015.
  2. The U.N. Refugee Agency reports that the conflict resulted in more than 333,700 Burundi refugees seeking safety and shelter in other countries. Many of the camps are unable to provide adequate shelter, health services or education. Moreover, many Burundi refugees feel as if the population has nowhere to go.
  3. Tanzania, a country that took in a significant portion of Burundi’s refugees, is no longer a place of refuge. Since 2019, Tanzanian authorities have abused Burundian refugees. They have also forced many refugees to return to Burundi. More than 150,000 Burundians reside in Tanzania, and the Burundians are at risk of suffering the same violations that the population fled from.
  4. Some Burundians feel safe returning to the country following the death of Nkurunziza. Rwanda, in particular, working with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, has a program for the repatriation of Burundian refugees. Nearly 1,500 refugees have registered for the program. While many Burundians are excited to return home, a significant portion does not feel safe returning. The political stability of Burundi is still uncertain, especially with Nkurunziza’s passing being so recent.
  5. Often referred to as the “forgotten” refugee crisis, the Burundi refugee crisis is the lowest funded global situation. In 2020, the cause received only 40% of the funds required to offer protection to the refugees. Even as Burundians are beginning to return home, there is still a significant population of vulnerable Burundi refugees who need assistance.

The 2021 Burundi Refugee Response Plan will ensure that Burundi refugees will be safe wherever they choose to reside. The plan advocates for more education and vocational training and incorporates Burundi refugees into local livelihood activities. It also ensures that basic needs, including health services, food and shelter are met in refugee camps.

– Samantha Silveira
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in BurundiThe East African country of Burundi is one of the poorest in the world. Its meager economy relies heavily on rainfed agriculture, which employs approximately 90% of the people there. Burundi is Africa’s most population-dense country and nearly three out of every four people live below the poverty line. One of the lamentable realities of Burundi’s poverty is the effects it has on children. Child poverty is a serious issue in Burundi and the country has a current score of 5.46/10 on Humanium’s “Realization of Children’s Rights Index.”  Burundi is deemed a black level country by Humanium, meaning that the issue of children’s rights is very serious.

The State of Child Poverty in Burundi

In Burundi, 78% of children live in poverty. Poverty especially affects children in the rural parts of the country. Poverty also disproportionately affects children of the indigenous Batwa people. Additionally, child poverty in Burundi has seen an unfortunate and notable increase since 2015, when violent unrest occurred following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement of a third term, which was unconstitutional. The roots of the poverty problem in Burundi stem from a few different factors, the most predominant one being hunger.

Chronic Hunger in Burundi

Despite having an agriculture-centric economy, more than half of Burundians are chronically hungry.  The lack of food in the country is due to the fact that even at the peak of the harvesting season, food production is too low to sustain the population. Food production in Burundi can only cover a person for 55 days of the year. The lack of food also means prices are much higher. As a result, it is not uncommon for households to spend up to two-thirds of their incomes on food, even during harvesting season. One reason for Burundi’s difficulties in growing enough food has been frequent natural disasters that destroy crops and yields.

Hunger and Education

Hunger is so prevalent and intense in Burundi that despite having free and compulsory school for children between the ages of 7 and 13, the country faces growing dropout rates due to hunger. Another problematic issue for Burundian children facing poverty is schooling after the age of 13. After 13, school is neither free nor compulsory, making it exponentially less accessible and thus reducing opportunities for upward mobility. Much of Burundi’s education system has been negatively affected by Burundi’s civil war, as schools were destroyed and teachers were unable to teach.

Street Children in Burundi

Burundi has many “street children.” As the name suggests, these children live on the streets and are incredibly poor, left to fend for themselves. Street children have no humanitarian assistance from the government and consistently face police brutality, theft and arrests. Kids in Burundi become street children because families are sometimes too poor and hungry to stay together or they have to flee from child abuse or family conflict.

Organizations Addressing Child Poverty in Burundi

Although the reality of the child poverty situation in Burundi is dire, there are good things being done to improve the situation. While the government in Burundi is not providing adequate help, there are several humanitarian organizations providing assistance to those in need.

The NGO, Humanium, works on raising awareness, partnering with local projects to help children and providing legal assistance to victims of children’s rights abuses. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also been working in Burundi since 1968 by providing food such as school meals, malnutrition rehabilitation to starved children and helping to improve food production. Additionally, organizations like Street Child are working to build schools and eliminate as many barriers to education as possible for children in Burundi and elsewhere. Groups like the WFP, Humanarium and Street Child do substantial work to help children in Burundi. It is vital that the work continues and that more organizations participate in alleviating child poverty in Burundi.

– Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr

Energy in BurundiRanked 185th out of 189 countries on the 2019 United Nations’ human development index, Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries. Approximately 65% of Burundians live below the poverty line. Furthermore, Burundi has the second lowest GDP in the world and the highest hunger score across the globe according to the 2018 World Food Security Report. This article will highlight challenges relating to accessing energy in Burundi and the early successes of some solutions.

An Unsustainable Lifestyle

Most Burundians live an agrarian lifestyle; approximately 80% of the population is employed in the agricultural sector and more than 87% of the population lives in rural areas. Of the 11.7 million people, only 3% have access to electricity, and 90% of energy access in Burundi is dependent on biogas via the burning of firewood. Unfortunately, 50% of the population remains food insecure, and the country’s total annual food production only covers 55 days per person each year. Burundian families spend on average four hours each day sourcing firewood for basic tasks like food preparation. However, this practice comes at the expense of:

  1. Education: Many children opt out of school to help source firewood. In fact, only 32% of Burundi’s children complete a lower secondary education.
  2. The Environment: Sourcing firewood contributes to deforestation and increases carbon dioxide levels. The resulting carbon emissions decrease air quality and damage the ozone layer, causing climate change.
  3. Family Health & Nutrition: Burundi has the highest level of malnutrition in the world. 56% of Burundian children are stunted and the median age of the population is 17.3 years. Preventing malnutrition in Burundi would cost $102 million per year.

The SAFE Initiative

Thankfully, the Burundian government joined with the World Food Program in 2017 as a part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative. The initiative introduces fuel-efficient stoves to over 18 countries in the region, promoting energy accessibility for impoverished communities in Burundi.

So far, this development has sparked great progress in Burundi:

  1. Currently, 485,000 persons have received and benefitted from fuel-efficient stoves.
  2. Institutional stoves that have reached 100,000 children and 147 primary schools.
  3. Fuel-efficient stoves have significantly reduced air pollution. The utility of each batch of firewood increase by up to fivefold, decreasing each family’s firewood intake by about 11.5kg per day.

However, the country is still primarily dependent on biogas from firewood. Fortunately, the location and climate of the country lend themselves to the renewable generation of energy in Burundi, mainly through hydroelectric and solar energy. The government of Burundi partners with energy investors to build its private sector. Hopefully, this partnership will boost Burundi’s economy, sparking expansion in the commerce, health, education, tourism, fisheries and transport sectors. Ultimately, expanding beyond an agrarian society will lift Burundians out of poverty.

Hydroelectric Power Energy in Burundi

Burundi has only utilized only 32 MW of its 1700 MW hydroelectric energy potential. The country is located in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes Region and surrounded by potential energy sources such as the Malagarasi river (475 km). With only 29 of 159 potential hydropower sites already explored, hydroelectric power technologies only serve 9% of the population. But, Burundi is making strides with its new development projects:

  1. The Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project: This Run-of-the-River system has an 80MW capacity and three generating units. The Rusumo Power Company developed this system with financial support from multi-national developers and the governments of Burundi, Congo and Tanzania. The plant is located on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania with transmission lines interconnecting them with Burundi. Its production began in January 2017.
  2. Ruzizi III: With a capacity of 147 MW and an energy production goal of 675GWh, the Ruzizi III greenfield hydropower project is a part of an existing hydropower cascade fed by the Kivu Lake. Ruzizi III is one of the largest infrastructure development projects in the region; Burundi, DRC and Rwanda each have 10% ownership of this partnership with a private investor.
  3. Ruzizi IV: This project is another partnership with Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda. The Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV will have a capacity of 287-MW. Additionally, the African Development Bank Group has approved an $8.9 million grant to support the development.

Access to Solar Power Energy in Burundi

Burundi also holds unique potential for solar power energy development. The country is located on the equator, with temperatures ranging from 17 to 23˚C, altitudes varying from 772 meters to 2,670 meters and extremely sunny weather. The Burundian authorities look forward to exploring this option soon.

With success, millions of households and industries will soon have accessible energy in Burundi. Reliable and widespread access to electricity is improving the quality of basic services including health, education and security services. Additionally, there will be a reduction in carbon emissions. Hopefully, with help, more Burundians will escape the cycle of poverty.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Burundi
Ranked 185th out of 189 countries on the 2019 United Nations Development Program’s human development index, Burundi is amongst the world’s poorest countries with 65% of the population living below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Burundi has the second lowest GDP in the world and the highest hunger score across the globe according to the 2018 World Food Security Report. However, poverty eradication in Burundi is possible through the granting of energy access.

Burundians live a very agrarian lifestyle with 80% of the population having employment in the agricultural sector and more than 87% of the population living in rural areas. Of the population of 11.7 million people, only 3% have access to electricity. Meanwhile, 90% of energy access in Burundi is dependent on biogas via the burning of firewood. This is not sustainable as 50% of the population remains food insecure, and the country’s total annual food production only covers 55 days per person each year.

The Challenges of Burning Firewood in Burundi

Burundian families spend on average four hours each day sourcing firewood for basic tasks like food preparation. However, this practice comes at the expense of:

  1. Education: Many children opt out of school to contribute to the sourcing of firewood. Only 32% of Burundi’s children complete a lower secondary education.
  2. The Environment: Sourcing firewood contributes to deforestation, and thus increases carbon dioxide levels. Resulting smoke contributes to poor air quality.
  3. Family Health & Nutrition: Burundi has the highest level of malnutrition in the world. In fact, 56% of Burundian children are stunted and the median age of the population is 17.3 years. The cost of malnutrition in Burundi is recorded at USD$102 million per year.

The Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Initiative

For a more sustainable program, the government joined with the World Food Program (WFP) in 2017 as a part of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) initiative that introduced fuel-efficient stoves to over 18 countries in the region, promoting energy access for poverty reduction in Burundi.

So far, this development has sparked great progress in Burundi in the following areas:

  1. About 485,000 persons and counting have already benefitted from the fuel-efficient stoves.
  2. The SAFE program has implemented institutional stoves that have already reached 100,000 children and 147 primary schools in Burundi.
  3. The stoves now allow for each batch of firewood to have up to five times the utility it had before, with each Burundian family having an 11.5 kg daily reduction in the need for firewood.

Still, the country remains primarily dependent on biogas from firewood and this initiative has only lessened its costs to society rather than eliminating firewood dependence. As a result, the Burundian government has now turned towards alternative innovations to promote energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi.

Fortunately, the location and climate of Burundi lend well to renewable energy generation mainly through hydroelectric and solar energy. The government of Burundi is actively partnering with energy investors to build its private sector and grow its other industries, commerce, health, education, tourism, fisheries and transport sectors. Expanding beyond a primarily agrarian society promises substantial growth for the economy of Burundi, providing a framework to lift Burundians out of the poverty cycle.

Hydroelectric Power Energy Access in Burundi

Located in the heart of Africa’s Great Lakes Region, surrounded by far-stretching rivers such as Malagarasi (475 km) and the Ruzizi (117 km), Burundi has only utilized only 32 MW of its 1,700 MW hydroelectric energy potential. With only 29 of 159 potential hydropower sites already explored, Burundi is still relying on outdated hydroelectric power technologies that can only serve 9% of the population. Moving forward, Burundi has begun to make strides in energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi through the following hydroelectric power development projects:

  1. Rusumo Falls Hydropower Project: This Run-of-the-River (RoR) system has an 80MW capacity and three generating units. The Rusumo Power Company (RPCL) developed it with financial support from multi-national development leaders along with the governments of Burundi, Congo and Tanzania. The plant is located on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania with transmission lines interconnecting them with Burundi. Its production began in January 2017.
  2. Ruzizi III: With a capacity of 147 MW and intended 675GWh of average energy production, the Ruzizi III greenfield hydropower project is a part of an existing hydropower cascade that the Kivu Lake feeds. One of the largest infrastructure development projects in the region, Burundi, DRC and Rwanda each have 10% ownership of this partnership with a private investor.
  3. Ruzizi IV: A partnership among Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda, the Ruzizi Hydropower Plant Project IV has been commissioned to be a 287-MW capacity hydropower project. The African Development Bank Group has already approved a USD$8.9 million grant to support the development.

Solar Power Energy Access in Burundi

Being located on the equator, with temperatures ranging from 17 to 23˚C, altitudes varying from 772 meters to 2,670 meters, and an average 2,000 kWh/m2.year of sunshine, Burundi holds unique potential for solar power energy development. The Burundian authorities look forward to exploring this option soon.

Granted success, millions of households and industries in the region will have energy access for poverty eradication in Burundi. Reliable and widespread access to electricity should improve the quality of basic social services like health, education and security services in the region. Additionally, there will be a reduction in carbon emissions, lessening of deforestation from lower dependence on firewood and thereby an increase in the living conditions of the regional population, breaking the poverty cycle in Burundi.

Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

American Expenditure on EntertainmentExpenditure by the average American consumer unit (henceforth household) each year is substantial compared to what the poor in the world spend. Of the 200 million or so rich people globally, Americans make up the majority; in this decade, as determined by those in the World Data Lab, “the world’s top market segment will be America’s rich” (italicization added). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey (BLS CEX), entertainment spending made up 5.3% of the total average annual expenditure of American households in 2018. American spending on entertainment is considerable.

Collectively: Average American Households

Looking at the CEX, in 2018, average annual expenditures rose to $61,224, compared to $60,060 the year before. More specifically, spending on entertainment (EE) increased to $3,226, from $3,203 in 2017. (Inflation was higher than expenditure numbers in 2018. Nevertheless, consider that thousands of dollars went toward entertainment.) There were 131,439,000 households in the U.S. in 2018. When one multiplies that number by EE, one gets $424,022,214,000; hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on entertainment.

That amount of money is more considerable than the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 for the entire country of the United Arab Emirates (where Dubai and the tallest building in the world are), which was over $421 billion.

So what does the category of entertainment expenditure include in the BLS CEX?

  1. Fees and admissions, including admissions to sporting events and movies; fees for social organizations; recreational lessons; and recreation expenses on trips.

  2. Television, radio and sound equipment, including video game hardware and musical instruments.

  3. Pets, toys, hobbies and playground equipment.

  4. Other entertainment equipment and services, including indoor exercise equipment, camping equipment, boats, photographic equipment and supplies and fireworks.

Just $2 billion of the $72.56 billion that Americans spent on pets in 2018 is what Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, was at a minimum seeking to raise as of 7 August. That amount could immunize both those with high susceptibility to the coronavirus and health care workers in Gavi-supported countries, with doses that would be available for use where needed most. Gavi is a public-private partnership that has helped to immunize hundreds of millions of children since 2000; partners include the World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

America’s Rich

By the end of 2020, there will be an average of $194 to spend per day per wealthy American; this is put forth in a Brookings Institution blog. Possibly an appropriate juxtaposition, in 2018, households and non-profit institutions serving households (NPISHs) final consumption expenditure per capita was $189 in Burundi, a country where most of the population is poor and which has the second lowest GDP in the world.

Using data from the 2018 CEX, one may learn something else concerning American expenditure on entertainment. The top 10% of highest income (before taxes) households in the U.S. had an average of 3.2 persons and spent an average annual expenditure of $142,554. That amounted to around $122 spent per day per person: each person spent approximately $6.64 a day on entertainment. Notice that the $122 is less than the $194 of America’s wealth. 

If each of the 42,134,400 persons of the above top 10% were to have given around $1.20, less than a fifth of what they expended on average on entertainment per day, that would be enough (at least in hard numbers) to meet the net funding requirements from June to November of this year about the World Food Programme in Burundi.

The Bigger Picture

Entertainment may not in and of itself be bad or good. One way that American expenditure on entertainment affects Americans is the amount of time they spend on entertainment. For example, in 2019, the BLS reports that watching television on average took up the most leisure time. Although Americans possibly can inform themselves about the poor in the world via television, Americans could use some of the time spent watching television to ask their representatives to support legislation that could help reduce poverty.

Kylar Cade
Photo: Flickr