The political and socio-economic crisis that resulted from the contested presidential elections in 2015 prompted a mass exodus, which continues today. In a country where 65% of the population live in poverty, severe food insecurity, malnutrition and lack of basic services have a devastating impact. More than 500 000 Burundians have been uprooted, inside Burundi or in neighboring countries. The EU continues to assist Burundian and Congolese refugees.
Burundi is ranked 184th out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index. Chronic malnutrition among Burundian children is the highest in the world. The UN estimates place the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance at 3.6 million. One in three Burundians is affected by food shortages, malnutrition or epidemics. The worsening food situation results from the country’s socio-economic crisis, decreased agricultural production and disruption of markets. Moreover, this year’s heavy floods destroyed people’s crops and livelihoods, and displaced thousands of families.
The majority of Burundian refugees – some 232 000 - remain in three closed camps in Tanzania. They rely on international assistance to meet their basic needs. Since the start of a voluntary repatriation plan in September 2017, more than 48 000 refugees have been repatriated to Burundi. According to the Burundian authorities, an estimated 60 000 people have also spontaneously returned. In August 2018, the UN refugee agency urged Tanzania to ensure that returns are voluntary and people are not pressured. Burundi also hosts 72 000 Congolese refugees. The situation remains one of the world’s most under-funded humanitarian crises.
The European Union is closely monitoring the Burundi crisis and has provided over €57 million in humanitarian funding since its beginning in April 2015. The funding is mainly allocated to humanitarian organisations for the assistance to Burundian refugees in the region as well as Congolese refugees in Burundi.
In Burundi, EU humanitarian funds are used to provide safe water and improved sanitation to displaced people and to increase protection of vulnerable populations. In May 2018, funding was provided to address the urgent needs of flood-affected families in the region of Gatumba, 12 km from the capital Bujumbura. They were given shelter, food assistance, blankets, mosquito nets, and access to healthcare.
With regard to the Burundians who fled the country, EU humanitarian support allows for the registration of the refugees and for essential services including food assistance in refugee camps and settlements across the region, more specifically in Tanzania, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Uganda.
In Tanzania, Burundian refugees are hosted in Mtendeli, Nduta, and Nyarugusu camps where capacities and resources have been stretched to the limit. The population in Nyarugusu has grown to three times the number the camp was initially planned to host.
Aid in the Tanzania camps is channelled towards child-protection and protection programmes, and the provision of safe water and sanitation. Particularly vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, single parents, survivors of sexual violence, and people with a disability, chronic medical condition or albinism, receive assistance and protection. EU-funded humanitarian organisations have adopted measures to reduce the risks of violence and abuse in the refugee camps while at the same time ensuring support and protection to victims of violence. The upgrading of healthcare 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 also provided in the form of cash transfers.