The general public is unable to form any positive conclusions from media sources due to how the media misrepresents Burundi. Through closer analysis, however, the public may see a shimmer of hope behind all the destruction that the media portrays is occurring in Burundi.

How Does the Media Portray Burundi?

The media portrays Burundi as economically unstable; however, this fact is only partially true. Population growth in Burundi continues to rapidly increase, leaving the nation fighting to support their growing nation.

Burundi’s economy is lacking in their growth rate with the population growth rate at 3.1 percent annually, and the GDP per capita not growing more than 1.5 percent even in the best of recent years. Because of these economic difficulties the country has endured, Burundi’s economy relies 49 percent on international financial aid.

International Aid

The media states that Western donors are in the process of cutting support towards Burundi, pushing the nation even more towards intolerable levels of poverty; however, in the past three years alone, the United States has donated over $135 million in foreign aid towards the country of Burundi.

Other organizations such as the World Bank pledged $440 million towards helping the country’s financial crisis, and the EU has already made firm commitments towards achieving this goal. Overall, donors have pledged over $2 billion for Burundi’s development strategy in order to rebuild the nation after its civil war and national political crises.

Internal Controversy

How the media misrepresents Burundi can also be seen in the violence occurring in the country due to political turmoil. Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in office since 2005, released a referendum date for May 17 for a controversial constitutional reform. If this reform is passed, it would allow President Nkurunziza to remain in power until 2034 — an unjust situation that would cause public uproar.

The violence has increased to such a degree that the U.S. State Department has warned Americans not to travel to Burundi, and that Burundi citizens are trained to promote violence and on the path towards another civil war. However, this media representation fails to mention measures taken within the nation to ensure the people of Burundi have alternative methods to violence.

New Generation

Diedonné Nahimana, an award-winning Burundi citizen, created the program of New Generation in Bujumbura to coach victims of war to become ambassadors for peace. New Generation was created to provide victims or orphans of war with alternative opportunities for a successful life rather than turning to violence.

This program develops a new generation of leaders who will restore Burundi after their 12-year civil war, and hopefully prevent the return of war. The foundation of their teaching is based upon non-violence as in the steps of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.

The dream is that by 2020, this new generation will control leadership positions in the country and teach this method of non-violence to others and ensure peace in the country. Due to all of this violence, more than a quarter of a million people have Burundi in terror, seeking refuge in other countries.

Global Priority

Despite this, sources claim that the world doesn’t seem to notice this violence occurring in Burundi and thus serve as another example of how the media misrepresents Burundi.

The people of Burundi are under constant persecution and live in terror in their country due to the political crises and increased poverty conditions; however, it is not the case that the world has turned their back on this African country. Since 2015, over 300,000 people have fled the country of Burundi, many to refugee camps in neighboring African countries where unfortunately, persecution and inhumane actions still exist.

Struggle and Sanctuary

Other countries, such as Canada, have developed methods to ensure Burundi refugees are welcome in their countries. Canada has designated refugee claims from Burundi which welcomes refugees into their country. In fact, Canada proudly holds a Burundian community of roughly 10,000 and continues to allow refugees inside its borders. The United States has also welcomed over 2,000 Burundian refugees in the past two years and the numbers increase daily.

Although Burundi endures many hardships from political crises, poverty and population growth, there is more good occurring in the country than what the media showcases to the public.

– Adrienne Tauscheck

Photo: Flickr

Why is Burundi PoorBurundi is a small East African nation located near Rwanda. Unfortunately, 58 percent of the population is chronically malnourished. Only 28 percent are food secure. With a GDP per capita of $818, it is the third poorest nation in the world. How is this nation one of the hungriest in the world, and why is Burundi poor? There are several reasons Burundi is poor and hungry. Below are four.

1. Conflict

Burundi has been involved in a cycle of civil wars since they obtained independence from Belgium in 1962. The nation has recorded five episodes of civil war that have claimed more than 500,000 lives and have produced about a million refugees. Consequently, this cycle of war has created an extremely unstable political environment. What is more, the latest two civil wars—one from 1993-2005 and another in 2015 after the controversial reelection of President Pierre Nkurunziza for a third term on a technicality—further crippled Burundi’s economy.

Conflict hinders agriculture, the backbone of Burundi’s economy. In fact, 90 percent of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Due to Burundi’s civil war, poverty increased from 48 to 67 percent of the population between 1994 and 2006. Rising food prices (including a 28 percent increase in 2007-08) affect families’ livelihoods and increase their susceptibility to repetitive natural threats. These threats include flooding, droughts, landslides and the impact of climate change.

War has also impeded manufacturing. For example, the 1993-2005 civil war caused manufacturing production to decline by an average of 13 percent per year between 1993 and 1997.

Finally, war economies are short-term oriented. Even when wars end, post-war economies must overcome a destroyed infrastructure, a devastated productive sector because of allocating resources to fund the war, lack of funds and a dearth of moral standards. These facts make it easier to understand why the rate of investment in the Burundian economy declined during the 1993-2005 civil war years. The rate of gross investment declined from 17.5 percent in 1990 to a mere 5.6 percent in 1998.

Why is Burundi poor? The continuous cycle of violence and war has been a major detriment to Burundi’s economy and has increased the amount of people in poverty in the country.

2. Inefficient Management of Public Finances and Resources by the State

The state of Burundi regularly interferes with the economy. It subsidizes fuel and rations subsidized electricity. The government also influences other prices through state-owned enterprises and agriculture-support programs. Economic freedom is not allowed, and this weakens entrepreneurial activity. The state also takes away private property from citizens.

Whys is Burundi poor? Poor economic planning and management from the government prevents economic growth.

3. Little Land to Support the Growing Population

Burundi is landlocked, and its population is continually increasing. Land is the greatest source of conflict in Burundi. The country is overpopulated and rural, so land is valuable because it is a source of agriculture. Land is a source of life and death. In fact, 89 percent of the population are subsistence farmers and depend on the land to grow food for their families.

In his study, “Why Has Burundi Grown So Slowly?” Janvier D. Nkurunziza cites a 1998 study from the Entequete Prioritaire (EP 1998) that stated the average farmer in rural areas of Burundi walked an average of one hour to get to the nearest marketplace, and it took them 30 minutes to get to the nearest grocery. In addition, there is only one market day per week in many rural areas, and there are no storage areas for perishable produce. Because of this, farmers have no incentive to create surplus. EP1998 data further shows that Burundian producers consume on average 64 percent of their own food produce. The farmers farm to survive, not to grow wealth.

Why is Burundi poor? With a fast-growing population and too little land to house them all, resources and livelihoods are more difficult to acquire and improve.

4. Droughts and Other Natural Disasters

Burundi has suffered from an unusually high number of natural disasters. Droughts, torrential rain, floods and hailstorms have been particularly destructive in recent years. Disasters have contributed to the displacement of communities; the destruction of homes; the disruption of livelihoods and the further decline in food and nutrition security.

Other effects of the disasters include decreases in land productivity and an increase in crop pests. Regions affected by recent natural disasters are also at risk for permanent food insecurity and weak nutritional conditions. Overcrowded areas (about 270 inhabitants per km2, and up to 400 per km2 in the most densely populated areas) have also contributed to greater food and resource scarcity in affected areas.

Why is Burundi poor? Natural disasters through an already impoverished nation into a state of crisis, causing food shortages and displacement.

The history of conflict and leadership in Burundi has had long term consequences for the state of poverty in the country today. The recent decision by several western countries to discontinue aid to Burundi to compel its state to genuinely reform systemic issues that contribute to conflict is not helping poverty in the interim. However, humanitarian aid programs such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF offer hope that someday, the Burundian people will overcome the perpetual cycle of poverty through compassion and help from their fellow man. Burundi has a long journey ahead on the path to reform. Understanding its history helps answer the question: why is Burundi poor?

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

5 Facts about Poverty In Burundi
From 1993 to 2006 a catastrophic civil war engulfed Burundi, amassing a death toll of over 300,000, leaving the country in shambles. 10 years after the official end of the war, Burundi is still trying to get back up on its feet. Following the war, poverty in Burundi increased from 48 to 67 percent of the population. Being ranked as the second most impoverished country in the world, Burundians face a tremendous amount of hardships day after day. Here are five crucial facts to better understand poverty in Burundi:

  1. Burundi is both landlocked and resource-poor with an underdeveloped manufacturing sector which makes it very difficult to survive, thus making the country heavily dependent on foreign aid. In 2014, 42 percent of Burundi’s national income came from foreign aid; this is the second-highest national income to foreign aid rate in all of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Burundi’s civil war forced over 48,000 refugees into Tanzania and displaced 140,000 others internally. Fortunately, after the war, political stability, aid flows and economic activity increased. Unfortunately, however, the war also led to a high poverty rate, poor education, weak legal system, poor transportation network, overstrained utilities and low administrative capacity. Government corruption is also a huge burden Burundians are forced to live with.
  3. In 2015, Burundi faced another hardship with political turmoil over President Nkurunziza’s heavily debated third term. This drama strained Burundi’s economy and caused blocks in transportation routes which disrupted the flow of agricultural goods. To make matters worse, many donors also withdrew their aid, raising tensions throughout the country.
  4. As a result of Burundi’s poverty situation, the median age in Burundi is 17 years old with about 46 percent of the population being 14 years of age or younger. With that being said, Burundi’s infant and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in all of Africa with 16,000 infant deaths per year. Along with infant and maternal mortality, malaria, diarrhea, which accounts for 88 percent of diarrhea-related deaths are attributed to unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation, respiratory infections and the effects of malnutrition are the leading causes of death in Burundi. In 2005, about 53 percent of children under the age of five suffered from growth stunting due to malnutrition.
  5. Burundi’s government aims to provide free basic education, but a lack of funds makes it difficult to acquire the number of teachers and tools necessary for the cause. Drop-out rates of students are also exceedingly high due to hunger.

It is easy to look away from the struggles Burundians face in their day-to-day lives, but they should not continue to suffer while the world turns a blind eye. The civil war may have happened 10 years ago, but this does not mean Burundi is a lost cause. If anything, this country’s situation should open the eyes of individuals throughout the world and spur them into action in order to properly assist and guide Burundians into a much brighter future. With the outside assistance, poverty in Burundi is something that can be overcome.

Bella Chaffey

Photo: Flickr