Widespread poverty, food insecurity and a malaria epidemic against a backdrop of socio-political turmoil are converging towards a humanitarian crisis. There are continued reports of persecution and violence, including extrajudicial killings, torture and rape. More than 600 000 Burundians have been uprooted from their homes. Economic decline and the disruption of markets and trade are to blame for the worsening food situation. One-fourth of all Burundians are facing severe food insecurity.
President Nkurunziza’s controversial reelection in 2015 plunged the country into crisis and prompted a mass exodus which continues to date. Agricultural production in 2017 has fallen by 25% compared to 2016 while food prices have increased by 30% to 50%. In the worst affected areas families have had to sell their assets or leave their homes.
The emergency threshold for acute malnutrition has been reached in Kirundi, one of the provinces with emergency levels of food insecurity. Child malnutrition is also on the increase in other parts of the country.3.5 million malaria cases and 1600 deaths have been reported during the first three months of 2017. A malaria epidemic has been declared.
Half of all internally displaced Burundians, now totalling 210 000, are reluctant to return home citing insecurity, food shortages and a lack of basic services. Some 250 000 Burundian refugees are hosted in Tanzania, in three camps along the border. They rely on international aid to meet their basic needs. In January 2017, Tanzania lifted the prima facie refugee recognition for Burundians, no longer automatically giving them refugee status. A sharp decline in new arrivals has been observed as a result and raises concerns about the safety of those wishing to flee Burundi.
The European Commission is closely monitoring the Burundi crisis and has released €45.5 million in humanitarian funding since the beginning of the crisis. These funds are mainly used by humanitarian partners to assist the Burundian refugees in the region. Some funds are also allocated to provide water and sanitation to displaced and violence-affected communities in Burundi and provide protection to vulnerable populations.
In the refugee camps and settlements in Tanzania, Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda, registration, essential services and food assistance are being provided with EU humanitarian support. In Tanzania, Burundian refugees are hosted in Mtendeli, Nduta and Nyarugusu camps which have become very congested. The population in the latter two has grown to three times the foreseen capacity.
Aid in the Tanzania camps is channeled towards the construction of weather-proof shelters and classrooms, the creation of children-friendly spaces, the provision of safe water and sanitation as well as assistance to and protection of vulnerable people and those with special needs such as the elderly, single parents, survivors of sexual violence, and people with a disabilities, chronic medical conditions or albinism.
The upgrading of water and sanitation facilities and health care services has been important to prevent and address disease outbreaks such as cholera. Where possible and pertinent, food assistance is being provided in the form of cash transfers.
The Commission's operational partners have adopted measures aimed at reducing the risks of violence and abuse in the refugee camps while, at the same time, providing support and protection to victims of violence.