- Total population: 10.5 million
- People displaced by conflict: 4.2 million (4 out of every 10)
- Rank in Human Development Index: 184 of 188
- Started working in Burundi: 1996
Burundi crisis briefing
Burundi, a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, has been engulfed by conflict since the early 1960s. The IRC has provided critical support over the past two decades and now, in the midst of the latest political crisis, we are there to assist the most vulnerable.
What caused the current crisis in Burundi?
Bouts of ethnic conflict have turned Burundi into one of the world’s poorest countries. The nation’s most recent civil war ended in 2005 and left 300,000 dead and sent 500,000 fleeing to neighboring Tanzania.
In 2015, violence broke out again following a contested presidential election. Another 260,000 Burundians left the country and tens of thousands are internally displaced.
Due to allegations of human-rights violations, lack of a free press and an unwillingness to engage in sincere negotiations, Burundi is shunned by humanitarian donors; most have suspended bilateral aid to the country, a loss amounting to half of the government’s budget. Already considered the hungriest country in the world prior to the current crisis, Burundi has been plunged into an economic quagmire with no end in sight.
What are the main humanitarian challenges in Burundi?
Burundi’s current political and economic crises are exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation, according to the United Nations.
Key areas of concern include the deterioration in basic services and access to livelihoods; a lack of protection and human-rights violations; and the growing vulnerability of affected communities to social unrest and ennui.
These challenges continue to provoke displacement of populations inside Burundi and to neighboring countries. Government services have been reduced and donor interest remains weak. Living conditions and food security continue to deteriorate in a country that already was among the least developed in the world.
How does the IRC help in Burundi?
The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future. We first began assisting Burundians in 1996, providing lifesaving interventions and emergency assistance to refugees and internally displaced people. Over the years, we helped the country rebuild following civil war.
Now, as the country is once again gripped by crisis, the IRC is focusing our efforts along Burundi’s border with Tanzania (Makamba, Rutana, Ruyigi and Mutinga province), as well as in and around the capital, Bujumbura, by:
- providing emergency relief;
- helping young people succeed by providing life skills and job training;
- reuniting separated children with their families and helping them transition back to school and family life;
- deinstitutionalizing children living in orphanages;
- encouraging women’s empowerment and improving services for victims of gender-based violence;
- helping to manage refugee camps in Burundi;
- working to safeguard the human rights and well-being of recently returned refugees;
- increasing access to justice in communities.
What still needs to be done?
Burundi is, and will remain, a fragile state for years to come. The current political turmoil and plummeting economy are catalysts for the deteriorating humanitarian situation.
We will continue to contribute toward creating a safe and protective environment for vulnerable communities, particularly women, girls and boys, through health, protection and education interventions. We will also work to narrow the gender gap between men and women, and boys and girls.
We are working to achieve our goals in the following areas by 2020:
Women’s protection and empowerment has been a success story for the IRC in Burundi, and we plan to build upon that success by ensuring that women and girls are protected from and treated for the consequences of gender-based violence.
The IRC will work to ensure women and children are safe at home from both violence and natural disaster. Additionally, we will focus on combating child labor to get boys and girls back in the classroom.
Investing in education for Burundi’s children is crucial. The IRC plans to focus on children up to 5 to ensure they attain age-appropriate levels of literacy and numeracy, as well as social and emotional skills.
As the economic situation in Burundi worsens, the IRC will continue to focus on village savings and loan associations to bolster self-sufficiency.
Additionally, given Burundi’s position as one of the world’s hungriest nations, the IRC will spearhead programs to increase food security.
The IRC will crosscut economic empowerment initiatives with women’s empowerment programming to narrow the gender gap for women and girls.
Download the IRC's Burundi strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities through 2020.