The political and economic crisis following the 2015 presidential election prompted a mass exodus. The crisis continues to date, with ongoing reports about a climate of persecution and violence. Widespread poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition also have a devastating impact on the lives of the most vulnerable. 570 000 Burundians live uprooted from their homes, both inside and outside of the country, and a quarter of the population faces severe food insecurity.
Burundi is ranked 184 out of 186 countries in the Human Development Index. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 3.6 million people are in need of humanitarian aid inside Burundi. One in four Burundians is affected by food shortages, malnutrition or epidemics such as malaria and cholera. The worsening food situation results from the economic decline and disruption of markets and trade. In recent times, Burundi has seen a sharp decrease of its agricultural production resulting in food price increases of up to 50%. Child malnutrition is on the rise in many parts of the country. More than 630 000 malaria cases were reported during the first two months of 2018 (UNICEF, Feb. 2018).
The majority of Burundian refugees – some 230 000 - remain in Tanzania where they are hosted in three camps along the border. They rely on international aid to meet their basic needs. In January 2017, Tanzania lifted the automatic recognition for Burundians as refugees. 13 000 refugees returned to Burundi in 2017 via a voluntary repatriation programme that started on 7 September. Many of the 174 000 internally displaced people in Burundi are reluctant to return home, citing food shortages, a lack of basic services and insecurity.
The European Union is closely monitoring the Burundi crisis and has released €45.5 million in humanitarian funding since the beginning of the crisis in April 2015. These funds are channelled to humanitarian organisations which assist Burundian refugees in the region. Some humanitarian funds are also allocated to provide water and sanitation to displaced and violence-affected communities in Burundi and provide protection to vulnerable populations.
EU humanitarian support provides registration, essential services, and food assistance in the refugee camps and settlements in Tanzania, Rwanda, DR Congo, and Uganda. In Tanzania, Burundian refugees are hosted in Mtendeli, Nduta, and Nyarugusu camps which have seen their capacities stretched. The population in Nyarugusu has grown to three times the foreseen capacity.
Aid in the Tanzania camps is channelled towards the construction of improved transitional shelters and permanent classrooms, child-protection programmes, and the provision of safe water and sanitation. Particularly vulnerable groups, such as those with special needs receive assistance and protection. Vulnerable groups include the elderly, single parents, survivors of sexual violence, and people with a disability, chronic medical condition or albinism.
The upgrading of health care services and water and sanitation facilities has been important to prevent and address disease outbreaks such as cholera. Where possible and pertinent, food assistance is provided in the form of cash transfers. EU-funded humanitarian organisations have adopted measures to reduce the risks of violence and abuse in the refugee camps while at the same time providing support and protection to victims of violence.