While there is no longer a humanitarian crisis Burundi, chronic poverty persists. The European Commission is a major player in the repatriation process to and from Burundi, which is a core goal of the EU-funded regional programme that provides assistance to refugees living in the Great Lakes region.
Around 220.000 Burundians had been living in Tanzania since the outbreak of the first major conflict between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups in the early 1970s. Another influx of some 340.000 refugees came from Burundi during the 1993 civil war. Most of the refugees were hosted in camps in Tanzania. In 2009, the Tanzanian government offered Burundian refugees who had been living in the country since 1972, the option to become Tanzanian citizens. While the vast majority accepted this offer, many chose to return home.
The European Commission is helping 35,000 of the remaining Burundian refugees left in Tanzania to return back to their country before the official closure of the camp in Tanzania at the end of 2012.
ECHO is also funding UNHCR to provide protection and assistance to an estimated 25.000 Congolese refugees living in three camps in Burundi. ECHO is also supporting the World Food Programme to examine the possibility of using cash and voucher modalities to refugees in the country so that they can buy their food from the local markets.
Since the year 2000, the European Commission Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) has provided more than €40 million towards health and nutrition services to vulnerable populations in Burundi. In 2011, the last of these programmes was concluded and absorbed into the Amagara Meza national health programme funded by the European Delegation in Burundi, which covers eight provinces over a four-year period. Due to an improvement of the humanitarian situation in Burundi, ECHO closed its office there in June 2012. The European Commission will continue to fund development cooperation actions in the country.
This progressive hand-over represents one of the most successful examples of how the European Union promotes the link between emergency response and long term development of a country and its people.