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

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

Election in BurundiAmid a global pandemic, Burundi is on the brink of its first democratic transfer of power in its 58 years of independence. The country’s Constitutional Court will announce the official winner of the May 20 election on June 4, but the Burundi election commission has already declared Evariste Ndayishimiye, the candidate of the governing party, the winner. The commission has declared that Ndayishimiye won 68.72% of the votes cast, while his main opponent, Agathon Rwasa, gathered 24.19%.

The historic May 20 vote for president engaged 87.7% of registered voters, who cast their ballots after the campaigns of seven presidential hopefuls. This high turnout is momentous considering the low road density in the landlocked country. Inaccessible roads make traveling to polling places difficult, with the poor state of infrastructure in the country making travel even more costly. Such costs may be difficult for Burundians to grapple with, given the country’s near total dependence on coffee subsistence farming, the production of which has declined in recent years.

Campaign Controversy

Leading up to the election in Burundi, the 2020 presidential campaigns were not without controversy. According to Human Rights Watch, the preceding year included more than 60 political killings and 200 arrests of perceived political opponents. Rwasa, a longtime leader of a Burundian rebel group and a candidate in the 2015 presidential race against the incumbent, called for profound change throughout the election. The spokesman for Rwasa’s party publicized the National Freedom Council’s boycott of the Burundi election commission’s announcement on the grounds of fraud and violence as the basis of Ndayishimiye’s win.

In addition to political controversy, the election in Burundi faced criticism for its call for in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Days after the election, Burundi only had 42 cases of COVID-19, reporting just one death and 20 recoveries among these. However, the number of cases in the country doubled between May 17 and May 21, indicating that the election could have played a role in this increase.

Throughout the pandemic, Burundi has avoided imposing stringent restrictions in favor of advising its citizens to practice handwashing and to avoid mass gatherings, with the exception of campaign rallies. These rallies were one of the main platforms for information dissemination about candidates, as less than 2% of the country’s population has electricity in their homes, causing many Burundians to attend. The government’s one heavy-handed rule was imposed on foreign election observers, who were to be quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in the country, a possible tactic to dissuade observers from attending the election in Burundi at all.

Violence Before the Vote

The election in 2020 comes on the heels of the tumultuous 2015 election in Burundi. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third-term bid violated the Constitution of Burundi’s two-term limit, provoking riots that culminated in a thwarted coup attempt. This insurgency prompted a violent suppression of the Burundian people and Nkurunziza’s political opponents. In the five years since the election, increasing violence in Burundi has led to the deaths of at least 1,200 people and the emigration of tens of thousands. This turmoil forced financial supporters of the country to cut political and financial ties, further entrenching it as one of the poorest countries in the world.

Economic isolation has put extreme financial stress on the government of Burundi, a burden that the government has imposed on its citizenry in recent years. Beginning in 2017, the government began demanding “contributions,” which it employed in part to fund the 2020 election. This contribution system was officially ended in 2019, but independent groups like the Imbonerakure youth militia have since demanded tributes in its place, exploiting even the seven out of 10 Burundians who live below the poverty line.

These human rights and economic abuses ratcheted up the pressure and significance of the 2020 presidential election, yielding a huge voter turnout in support of reform.

A New Face

While the declared winner Ndayishimiye is the candidate of the ruling party that backed Nkurunziza in his violent and lengthy reign, many Burundians showed up to the polls in support of political change. The people are participating politically to end the violence that has gripped Burundi throughout its occupation by Belgium, which ended in 1962, and the ensuing battles between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. After the first democratic election in Burundi in 1993, the Hutu president was assassinated by a Tutsi-led group of political opponents and traitorous cabinet members.

Burundi has yet to maintain peace after a transfer of power. The country is looking to the results of this election to usher in a peaceful and democratic transition between presidents. Whether Ndayishimiye rules independently or under the influence of Nkurunziza, who has been declared the “supreme guide for patriotism” by the Parliament of Burundi, the Burundian people will be turning to their new government for leadership. In practical terms, this leadership could implement an electrification plan to bring electricity to more Burundian homes and a plan to diversify the economy away from subsistence coffee farming. Voters in the 2020 election in Burundi are seeking an end to forced contributions, insight into governmental spending, a window for economic growth and peace as Burundi moves through the pandemic and into the future.

Annie Iezzi
Photo: Flickr

Malaria treatment

At the young age of six years old, YouTube and comedy star Kacaman (aka Darcy Irakoze) just became the latest victim of malaria in Burundi. He was one of the biggest names in Burundi’s comedy scene and had thousands of views on YouTube. His videos, featuring the rural dirt floors and rusty villages of Burundi, were lighthearted and melodramatic skits starring himself and other comedians/actors. Darcy Irakoze is just one example of the need to improve malaria treatment in Burundi.

A Silent Crisis

Kacaman’s death brings to light an often-unspoken crisis: Burundi’s malaria epidemic. Nearly half of the country’s population has been affected by malaria this year. Of that number, 1800 have died from the disease. This staggering amount actually rivals the number of deaths from Ebola in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Poor preventative measures have been the driving factors behind the epidemic. These include a lack of mosquito nets, the movement of the population with low immunity to malaria from mountain areas to city areas and various changes in climate. The crisis has received some attention from the World Health Organization and the United Nations, but it remains remarkably untouched as a result of the current leadership. Afraid of admitting weakness in health policies, President Nkurunziza is hesitant to admit he needs help increasing malaria treatment.

An Epidemic of the Poor

The brutal reality that a six-year-old boy in Burundi can access the internet and YouTube but not malaria treatment presents a serious call for action. Often referred to as the “epidemic of the poor,” malaria disproportionately affects poverty-stricken areas like Burundi because of the expense required to purchase preventative measures and medical treatment.

The disease presents many ramifications for family members of the sick. They deal with psychological pain, the strain on already tight budgets and job loss. Additionally, malaria damages the economic wellbeing of countries as it decreases the chances of tourism and foreign investment. This keeps poor countries in a vicious cycle because they are unable to provide enough funds for malaria treatments or to improve other aspects of their country.

What Is Being Done?

Innovations like the Kite patch offer promising improvement for malaria prevention. The patch works by making humans virtually invisible to mosquitoes for up to 6 hours, stopping any bites. The company is working to distribute the patch around the world through the Kite-Malaria-Free Campaign, but it still needs more funding. The World Health Organization has launched the “high burden high impact” campaign as a response to countries facing extremely large epidemics. This entails a more aggressive approach to preventing and treating malaria by working with national governments in each of the countries to create an organized and strategic approach.

Increasing prevention is still vital in the fight against malaria. Widespread distribution of mosquito nets and insecticide in areas where these items are inaccessible or too expensive could yield massive results. More effective antimalarial treatments are also needed to fight malaria. The problem of the developing resistance to antimalarials in certain populations needs to be addressed to increase the efficacy of the drugs. Finally, a successful malaria vaccination needs to be more accessible. A semi-effective vaccine has been developed, but the technology still requires some fine-tuning.

It is likely at least one child will have died from malaria in the last minute. Kacaman was one of those children. His death should inspire a revitalized passion and determination to conquer malaria. While some incredible advances have been made, more is needed. Hopefully, these efforts can make this world one where malaria treatment and prevention is just as viral as YouTube.

Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Burundi
Burundi is a small, landlocked country situated in the heart of Sub-Saharan Africa and bordered by Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is currently listed at number 185 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI), which coincides with its status as one of the poorest countries in the world. HDI is determined by a variety of factors, including the average lifespan of a country’s inhabitants. Life expectancy can be a telling indicator of the social, economic and institutional challenges a country might be facing.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Burundi

  1. It’s relatively low—The CIA estimates the overall life expectancy in Burundi at about 61.4 years of age, while the U.N. Development Programme’s estimate is slightly lower at 57.6 years. Either way, the average life expectancy in Burundi is younger than the average age of retirement in the United States.
  2. Food insecurity is an issue—Between July and September 2018, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) determined that at least 1.4 million Burundians were living in the Crisis and Emergency phases of food insecurity. For many, these classifications translate into a lack of proper nutrition that can seriously impact health. Some measures are being taken to address this issue—for example, last year USAID’s Food for Peace initiative contributed $30 million in food resources to Burundians and Congolese refugees—but putting a greater emphasis on the introduction of innovative irrigation practices could have a more lasting impact.
  3. Childhood malnutrition has long-term effects—Perhaps the most visible effect of food insecurity in Burundi is malnutrition among young children. According to USAID, 56 percent of Burundian children under 5 experience stunted development and 29 percent are underweight. Underdevelopment from malnutrition can have lasting effects on both overall health and longevity, potentially resulting in shorter life expectancy.
  4. The population is outgrowing its resources—About 20 percent of Burundi’s population of 11 million people consists of children below the age of 5. This indicates a massive dependent population and a high potential for growth—in fact, the population is expected to double by 2050. In a country already struggling to support its inhabitants, rapid growth will mean spreading its resources even thinner and exacerbating issues like food insecurity. This trend, therefore, can indirectly impact life expectancy in Burundi on a variety of levels.
  5. There is a lack of reproductive health services—As evidenced by the above point, Burundi has one of the highest birth rates in the world at an average of 5.93 children per woman. According to the U.N.’s Human Development Report, 30 percent of Burundian women had an unmet need for family planning, and the prevalence of contraceptives (any method) among women of reproductive age was only 28.5 percent. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is taking some action to address the lack of reproductive health services. In 2018, UNFPA supported the development of 10 new health facilities providing emergency obstetric care. However, Burundi still lacks a comprehensive family planning program.
  6. Most of the population lives in poverty—With a GNI per capita of $702 per year, the majority of Burundi’s population lives in some degree of poverty. 90 percent of the employed population lives on less than $3.10/day, making it extremely difficult for working men and women to support their families and meet all of their needs. While the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been instrumental in implementing poverty reduction strategies in rural areas, much of the population continues to suffer from poverty on some level.
  7. HIV/AIDS reduction is still in progress—In 2016, there were 2,200 new HIV infections in Burundi, making the total number of citizens living with the disease about 84,000. The most high-risk groups continue to be sex workers and men who have sex with other men, with an HIV prevalence of 21.3 percent and 4.8 percent respectively. Between 2008 and 2011, the World Bank implemented the Second Multisectoral HIV/AIDS Project to capitalize on previous HIV reduction efforts; the project resulted in increased condom use and more readily available antiretroviral therapy. Because of such initiatives, HIV infections have decreased by 54 percent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 49 percent since 2010.
  8. Other major infectious diseases exist—Due to a tropical climate and a lack of immunizations, illnesses like malaria, typhoid fever, measles and hepatitis A continue to pose a problem for Burundians. These conditions, coupled with a physician density of only 0.05 physicians/1000 people, put the population at risk for premature death and can seriously impact life expectancy in Burundi.
  9. Environmental hazards hinder development—Burundi’s extreme climate puts it at risk for natural disasters like floods, droughts and landslides. Such hazards damage infrastructure, displace people from their homes and contribute to the issues of food insecurity and water scarcity during certain months of the year.
  10. It’s ultimately increasing—As a result of some of the initiatives discussed above, life expectancy in Burundi has increased from 48.1 years in 1990 to about 58 years in 2017. While this number is still significantly lower than that of countries like the United States, there has been a definite upward trend.

In conclusion, there are a variety of factors that contribute to a relatively low life expectancy in Burundi. By continuing to provide assistance to relief programs, it is likely that the average life expectancy will continue to rise.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Burundi
At then end of June this year, the Ministry of Education in Burundi decided to ban pregnant girls and teenage fathers from attending school. Girls have always been treated unfairly in comparison to boys when it comes to education, and this new ban is just another example. Although the ban feigns equality by giving teenage fathers the boot: the solution is faulty.

Teenage Pregnancy in Burundi

To begin with, all children deserve the right to education and should not be denied it on the premise of pregnancy. Secondly, there is no access to a reliable method to establish a teenage boy’s paternity. The ban is inherently biased against girls because they cannot hide their pregnancy. Since teenage pregnancy is an issue, girls’ education in Burundi will be affected by this restriction because fewer girls will be able to attend school.

The impact of this new law has the potential to be irreparably damaging, as 11 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in Burundi are sexually active. Additionally, 40 percent of victims of sexual or physical violence in Burundi are teenage girls. There is simply no way for the Ministry of Education to police sexual violence in order for it to entirely stop affecting girls of school-age. The ban does nothing but punish girls for a situation they have no control over.

Other countries such as Morocco and Sudan have also taken measures in an attempt to prevent premarital sex. The laws they have in place allow young girls to face criminal charges for adultery and extramarital sex. They can also be expelled from school. Officials have stated the laws are necessary to punish girls for “moral failures.”

Poverty and Girls’ Education in Burundi

Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world, with 65 percent of its population living below the poverty line. Living in a low-income region already is detrimental to girls’ education in Burundi. Girls’ families often cannot afford school supplies and the quality of education is not good either.

The last thing girls need are more roadblocks to getting their education. The new ban on attending school while pregnant perpetuates stigmas and isolate young girls socially. These girls are often already financially disadvantaged and ostracizing them from the school system puts them in a much less supported and dangerous place.

Some countries have policies that allow girls to re-enter school after being expelled. However, it is common for these systems to have many deterrents for girls to actually re-enter. Medical exams and an extended maternity leave are just a few examples.

After a young girl has been ostracized and humiliated, it is unlikely she will want to return to pick up from where she left off. The re-entry programs make the system seem a little more humane. But when thought about realistically, they probably will not provide girls with more opportunity.

Girls’ education in Burundi has a long way to go after the passing of this law. Surpassing financial obstacles in an impoverished country to get an education is hard enough on its own. Girls should not have to live in the fear of losing their shot at getting an education because of a situation that they are not responsible for.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Burundi
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

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in BurundiBurundi is a small country in Africa with a population of over 10 million people. It is also one of the poorest countries on Earth. This African nation was involved in a 12-year civil war and is currently recovering from it.

Fortunately, its recovery from war has not led women’s empowerment in Burundi astray. In fact, Burundi has a quota for the number of women in government. While it is not quite even with men, the country requires at least 30 percent of federal government positions be filled by women. Women also account for more than half of the workforce in Burundi and play a large role in agriculture.

Despite these factors, women still face discrimination when running for office. The 30 percent quota is not mandated for local government, and many citizens want more women in local positions. Women make up only 17 percent of local governments, much less than at the national level. At the local level, one is able to make a more direct impact on one’s community, leading many women to run for leadership positions within their communities. This movement toward more female leaders is a positive step toward overcoming gender discrimination and stereotypes.

The organization Search for Common Ground and the Dutch government have come together to help encourage women’s empowerment in Burundi, assisting in strengthening women’s participation in all levels of government. The women that they support must overcome the “practical challenges [that] make it difficult to attain true equality with their male counterparts, including balancing the demands of their position with responsibilities at home, a lack of funds to run a campaign, and simply overcoming a lack of experience in government in order to gain greater legitimacy and step into decision-making roles.”

The U.N. has also been working on this issue and has created programs to train women in how to participate in public affairs. Some of the topics covered include lobbying and negotiating, both skills that women need to be successful and make an impact when they are not equally represented. The U.N. also aims to make gender issues and gender policy the center of local and national conversations. This will not only empower women, but also empower their communities.

Because women are working harder to gain political power and there is more discussion about gender, the issues surrounding how women are viewed in society and culture will begin to be questioned more. Hopefully, as a result, Burundi will be able to see that women are more than just supporters of their husbands and children; they are also supporters of their country. For now, women’s empowerment in Burundi is growing and will continue to thrive until women have the same rights and representation as men.

– Emilia Beuger

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Burundi

In September 2017, at least 36 Burundian refugees that were attempting to leave the violence inside their home country were killed in Congo, informed The New York Times. Since 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza was re-elected for a third term in a highly controversial election, 300,000 people have abandoned Burundi pursuing freedom.

Despite a decade of peace that Burundians saw after the civil war between the Hutus and Tutsis ends in 2005, 66.9 percent of the population in the Eastern African country are below the national poverty line. This problem makes conditions for refugees worse, as they lack basic services like water, shelter and health care. Four out of every 10 Burundians have been displaced from their country by the violent ethnic conflict.

However, several organizations provide aid to refugees fleeing Burundi. The following foundations work on assisting conditions in the African nation and are always accepting help from volunteers or donors.

  • The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) fights to provide better living conditions for the refugees, improving things such as shelter, health care and education. Also, the organization uses advocacy to direct public policy in certain countries to ensure the protection of refugees.
  • International Rescue Committee, like the UNHCR, provides education, safety and health aid to Burundian refugees. The organization believes in empowerment through education so that refugees have the proper information to help them make accurate decisions about their future. Through this strategy, the Rescue Committee ensures a better future for refugees still in Burundi and those who have already fled.
  • Help Age International is an organization that focuses on direct contact with the refugees. So far, its team has supported more than 14,000 vulnerable people in Mtendeli and Nduta, Burundian refugee camps in Tanzania. The work Help Age has accomplished includes giving rations cards and cash payments and highlighting issues such as domestic violence.
  • Other organizations aim to reduce poverty in Burundi, like Concern Worldwide, an organization that focuses on the health and nutrition of the citizens of Burundi.

Some countries have adopted public policies that ensure the welfare of refugees around the world, especially after the crisis in the Middle East in 2011. For example, Germany offers asylum applications for refugees, and Sweden provides refugees with rights like the immediate capacity to work and the possibility to choose a place of residence. Countries in Africa surrounding Burundi must adopt similar policies to allow the Burundian refugees a safe environment to shelter themselves and their families.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in BurundiCitizens of the Republic of Burundi are plagued by malnutrition, unclean water, unsanitary conditions, poor hygiene, low quality education, food scarcity, overpopulation, sexual and gender based violence and child labor. And the question is: why is this crisis prevalent and how can everyday people help? The long-term solution to helping people in Burundi is to fix how monetary resources are allocated by its government.

Seeing as that task is daunting for the layman, the following paragraphs provide information on how to help people in Burundi.

Helping people in Burundi is frankly, difficult. This is because the European Union, Belgium, United States and other western countries have decided to suspend all bilateral aid (when one country’s government gives financial aid to another’s country’s government) to Burundi’s government because of human rights violations and an unwillingness to engage in sincere negotiations for peace.

Prior to the freeze, bilateral aid accounted for about half of Burundi’s overall budget. Lack of bilateral aid will only further hurt the country’s economy, and Burundi’s economy was already one of the least developed in the world.

While bilateral aid has been suspended, humanitarian aid has not. Here are three humanitarian organizations you can donate to in order to help people in Burundi:

1. World Food Programme

People in Burundi need food. The World Food Programme (WFP), the leading humanitarian organization fighting hunger worldwide to help them get that food, needs donations. In Burundi, only 28 percent of the population are food-secure and as many as 58 percent are chronically malnourished. WFP provides hot meals to primary school aged children in food insecure areas to encourage school attendance. Two hundred thousand children currently receive assistance from this program.

WFP also offers food assistance to 70,000 pregnant and nursing women who are underweight 6 months before birth and for up to 3 months after birthing. In addition, WFP provides food to refugees and people living with HIV and AIDS. Finally, WFP teaches locals in Burundi how to be more efficient in agriculture through its Food-for-Training/Food for Assets program.

Three hundred and fifty thousand people are being taught infrastructure development, how to rehabilitate deforested areas, agro-forestry and micro-economic training.

2. BeyGOOD

People in Burundi need access to clean water. Donate to Beyonce’s organization, BeyGOOD. BeyGOOD is working with UNICEF to supply safe water to people in Burundi. A statement on Beyonce’s website states: “With your help, nearly half a million people will gain access to safe water, as BEYGOOD4BURUNDI and UNICEF will support building water supply systems for healthcare facilities and schools, and the drilling of boreholes, wells and springs to bring safe water to districts.”

Donation gifts range from $3.11 for a collapsible 68-ounce water container for one person to $1,430.06 for a water tank kit for 1,000 people.

3. The Burundi Education Fund 

People in Burundi need better quality education. Poverty and hunger have made it difficult for students to obtain an education. After the 6th grade, the Burundi Educational System simply does not have the room or resources to place children in schools. This results in students having to compete to be selected for the next grade by taking difficult placement tests. In some cases even if the student passes the test, he or she cannot move further in education due to the inability to afford tuition fees or school supplies.

The Burundi Education Fund, Inc. is a charitable Christian organization formed to provide materials and financial support to students and schools in extreme poverty in Burundi, Africa.

Specific successes of the organization that have helped students obtain their education include building a 26-bed dormitory safe house for the girls of Muramba High School, a running water fountain that provides clean drinking water to more than 1,900 students in the Mubimbi district and supporting a transfer student program.

The highly selective transfer program offers high school students a chance to continue their education in the U.S.

These are the most vital examples on how to help people in Burundi. The organizations above are addressing key needs of Burundian people’s lives that help them to obtain their basic human rights. While helping the people of Burundi may seem daunting, to be a responsible global citizen one must not turn a blind eye to tactics that can help others improve their quality of life.

Take action today and help one of the world’s poorest and hungriest nations become food and wealth secure.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr