Fighting Poverty in BurundiBurundi, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, is located in Central Africa below the equator. According to the U.S. Department of State, 87% of the population is living below the poverty line as of 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic also hit this country hard in 2020 as Burundi had limited medical resources and health care opportunities available.

Burundi is severely affected by chronic malnutrition related to limited access to clean water and food. Poverty in Burundi also affects many of the children in the population, with limited education and health resources available. Half of the children in Burundi suffer from stunted growth as the result of malnutrition. With the country being so vulnerable to the increase of poverty-like conditions, several charities and organizations around the world provide aid for this country in hopes of alleviating some of the struggles.

5 Organizations Fighting Poverty in Burundi

  1. CARE International: CARE International works to fight global poverty and inequality and has helped women and children, specifically in Burundi. Severe political violence in 2015 left a multitude of Burundians displaced. As early as 1994, CARE established an office within the country to help those affected by civil conflict and violence. CARE has since then increased its assistance to help refugees that fled to surrounding countries. CARE sees that the female population, both women and girls, suffer the most. They take on many household and family responsibilities and often experience violence. In 2019, CARE provided women and girls with care packages specially made for females. The organization has also helped women start businesses as a way of income.
  2. International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee has been fighting poverty in Burundi since 1996. In 2017, the IRC issued a strategic action plan, which focused on the large number of displaced persons due to violence and the vulnerability of women and girls. This organization strives to improve the health, safety, economic well-being and education of those living in Burundi. The organization is also fighting for gender equality amongst women and men and boys and girls.
  3. World Food Programme: The World Food Programme works with the government of Burundi to address malnutrition, especially in children. Alongside the government in Burundi, the WFP works to combat stunting growth in children under 5. Food is provided to children as well as pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The organization also purchases food from local farmers, using these goods to provide school meals. Helping both the farmers and children, the program aims to cut back on malnutrition rates.
  4. UNICEF: UNICEF works in over 190 countries to fight for children’s rights and survival. The organization aims to cover all basic needs to improve living conditions and survival rates. In 2022, UNICEF acquired 22 million dollars to assist women and children suffering in Burundi. A large portion of this funding goes to water and hygiene and nutrition efforts.
  5. ActionAid: ActionAid has been working in Burundi since 1976. Their efforts strive to increase the number of children who attend school and provide food to those facing hunger. Women’s rights are a critical issue, and according to ActionAid, 1 in 5 women are married before they turn 18.

This organization also helps local farmers by supplying them with the tools and education to grow better crops. They also work to increase the number of children who attend school and help refugees find jobs.

Gender inequality is a huge issue in Burundi and ActionAid works to improve the living conditions of women and girls. They spread awareness of women’s rights and the importance of legal marriages rather than informal ones.

The Impact

These are only a few of the many organizations that work in Africa and provide humanitarian aid to Burundi directly. The country faces a multitude of issues, as it is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Common trends of hardship that we see this country face are poverty, malnutrition, displaced persons and gender inequality.

There are so many nonprofit organizations fighting poverty in Burundi, and many of them have provided the country with great improvements. While the country still faces many hardships, there is potential for greater development thanks to all of these organizations providing assistance.

– Alesandra Cowardin
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in BurundiPopulated with over 10 million people, Burundi is a densely packed, landlocked East African country with the worst rates of malnutrition in the world.

Burundi was rated the world’s leading nation affected by hunger, according to the 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI), a score calculated annually by the International Food Policy Research Institute. Plagued with political turmoil and prone to natural disasters, Burundi has seen rates of malnutrition increase in recent years. Despite global strides in combating malnutrition in recent history, Burundi is one of only four nations that has seen an increase in GHI from 1990 to 2014, indicating a worsening situation in the country. With 67.3 percent of the overall population undernourished, it is one of two countries with a hunger situation labeled “extremely alarming” in the study.

As the vast majority of Burundi’s population relies on agriculture, many of the country’s inhabitants combat food insecurity and malnutrition due to climate hazards, limited land access and limited crop diversity. Despite a constantly growing population, food production has stagnated at pre-1993 levels, according to the World Food Programme. Additionally, due to the rising costs of food — the price of beans increased by nearly 50 percent in recent years — the average household now spends over 70 percent of its income on food. While the nation’s government has programs in place to assist in the fight against malnutrition, it is growing increasingly costly for the country to deal with the worsening problem.

Common causes of malnutrition in the country include kwashiorkor and marasmus, both of which can stunt development and can be life-threatening if not treated. Although women and young children are most at risk for diseases caused by malnutrition, many men are also affected.

Additionally, many children and women suffer from a lack of micronutrients in their diets. In the first two years of life, it is especially crucial for children to get sufficient amounts of micronutrients such as iron, Vitamin A, iodine and zinc. Such nutrients are critical for physical growth and intellectual development.

Anemia is one of the biggest deficiency problems currently faced in Burundi, with 56 percent of children under the age of 5, and 47 percent of pregnant women anemic, according to the World Bank. Additionally, nearly half of the population as a whole is at risk for insufficient zinc intake, and a quarter of the country’s children under 5 and 12 percent of women are Vitamin A deficient. Although the effects of these deficiencies are less dire in the short term, they contribute to life-threatening illnesses and issues.

In order to address the problems of malnutrition in Burundi, the World Bank recommends extensive vitamin A supplementation and deworming in children under 5-years-old and increased iron supplementation for pregnant women. While about 96 percent of households are already consuming iodized salt, the World Bank recommends “universal salt iodization” in order to control iodine deficiency and avoid IQ loss in young children. Working to increase market and infrastructure development to promote dietary diversity can also combat issues with malnourishment.

Education and counseling services can also serve to improve feeding habits for children under five years old. While Burundi sees a lack of gender equality in most sects of life, women are still seen to have a strong maternal role in the family. UNICEF found that children of mothers with at least a primary level of education have 94 percent of fewer risks of growth stunting from malnutrition than children of mothers with no education. The study showed that mothers with some level of education had been proactive in managing malnutrition than other mothers, recognizing the importance of good breastfeeding habits, clean living and staggering pregnancies.

Since 2005, the Ministry of Health has emphasized building community-based infrastructure to screen for and treat acute malnutrition. Many organizations are also working with the Burundi government to increase education programs for mothers in order to deal with the country’s chronic malnutrition. In 2012, Burundi signed on to the Scaling up Nutrition initiative, which works with the United Nations, civil society, donors, businesses and researchers to work with communities on this issue. The initiative involves an interdisciplinary approach to combating malnutrition. Burundi’s approach, as established through the initiative, involves working to protect maternity leave, create legislation on the marketing of breast milk substitute, establish national directives on food, diversify and increase its food production, and increase nutrition education. The established goal in 2012 was to reduce malnutrition rates by 10 percent by 2016. No information has been released by Scaling up Nutrition or by the Burundian government on the progress of this goal.

– Arin Kerstein

Sources: International Food Policy Research Institute, International Food Policy Research Institute, Iwacu-Burundi, Scaling Up Nutrition, World Bank, Wolrd Food Programme, UNICEF
Photo: The Guardian