The 10.4 million people living in Burundi suffered through civil war conflict that began in 1994 and lasted for 12 years. Ongoing violence has since kept Burundi one of the poorest and hungriest countries in the world. In 2015, the political and social unrest reached a tipping point when a contested presidential election plunged the country into its worst crisis yet. Humanitarian aid to Burundi was threatened after donors suspended funding to the government following human rights violations and negligent use of funds. Fortunately, organizations have been focused on finding other ways to aid Burundi citizens and refugees.
After suspending governmental aid in 2016, the European Union has been redirecting humanitarian aid to Burundi by concentrating its efforts on local populations and civil society. Over 90 percent of Burundi’s population depends on agriculture, based mainly on subsistence farming, one of the main contributors to its GDP. The European Development Fund has allocated $500 million in aid. The funding will be used to support sustainable rural development, benefiting nutrition, health and energy, and helping Burundi citizens support themselves.
The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has partnered with singer Beyoncé to launch BEYGOOD4BURUNDI, a partnership dedicated to providing safe water in Burundi. Over the next few years, the program will improve water sanitation facilities in schools, provide hygiene education and construct new wells equipped with hand pumps. Access to clean water will prevent transmission of water-borne diseases, one of the leading causes of death of children in Burundi. The risk of attack on young girls will also be lowered, as they will no longer have to travel for miles to find water.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has released an extensive regional response plan to organize global humanitarian aid to Burundi. After receiving aid from countries all over the world, the humanitarian response plan is already about 88 percent funded and is focusing its efforts on providing education, food, safety and economic growth in Burundi.
While providing humanitarian aid to Burundi without the full cooperation of their government is a challenge, organizations have found ways to directly help villages sustain themselves, help more children receive education, improve health and hygiene to help prevent disease, and give access to safe water.
– Jenae Atwell