Fifteen years of civil war since 1993, combined with extreme poverty, a fragile political process and recurrent climatic shocks, have had a strongly negative impact on Burundi’s economic and nutrition indicators.
Only 28 percent of the population is food-secure and as many as 60 percent are chronically malnourished. Food security for the majority of Burundians has not improved in recent years, despite a gradual return to peace. Average annual food deficits in Burundi range from 350,000 to over 450,000 metric tons (in cereal equivalent and after commercial imports and food assistance) against an annual average requirement of 1,718,000 tons, while food production has stagnated at pre-1993 levels. With a population growth rate of nearly three percent per year, per capita agricultural production has declined by 24 percent since 1993.
As a result, the average per capita production now stands at 1,400 kilocalories per day (the recommended minimum requirement is 2100). Even during harvest season, households spend up to 60 percent of their income on food. Burundi is one of the ‘red zone’ countries identified by both FAO and WFP as being most affected by soaring food prices. After many years of conflict, the capacity of the government to respond to this new challenge is limited.
Burundi, like much of Central Africa, is also prone to natural disasters. Floods, hailstorms, drought and torrential rain are recurrent in Burundi. In recent years, the country has registered an unusually high amount of natural disasters which contributed to the displacement of communities, the destruction of homes, the disruption of livelihoods and the further deterioration of food and nutrition security. In 2010, WFP assisted over 50,000 vulnerable households that were affected by major drought. Currently, the country is under a La Niña alert, which could affect 1 million people. The UN has established a contingency plan to deal with the effects of La Niña.
The new Country Programme and Protracted Relief and Recovery Programme support a monthly average of 800,000 food-insecure people through the rehabilitation of those suffering from malnutrition, the provision of school meals, food assistance to victims of climatic shocks, and the empowerment of communities to create assets and improve food production. WFP also assists over 20,000 refugees from the DR Congo and around 44,000 returnees and expellees (Burundians without refugee status) from neighbouring countries.
WFP support for refugees continues to be focused in three refugee camps in Burundi where Congolese refugees are assisted with a full ration of 2,100 kcal per day. This support reaches approximately 20,000 refugees per day.
Food-for-Training/Food-for-Assets activities target poor, rural households to increase agricultural production, improve access to markets and support income generating activities. Activities include infrastructure development, rehabilitation of deforested areas, agro-forestry and micro-economic training. These activities reach 350,000 beneficiaries.
WFP School Feeding targets primary schools in food-insecure areas. Hot meals are distributed to school boys and girls in order to encourage attendance, an increased attention span, enrollment and continued attendance. School Feeding is an umbrella concept and encompasses education, nutrition and health activities, also known as the Essential Package for Learning, with critical support from partner agencies FAO and UNICEF. 200,000 children currently receive food assistance under this programme.
Approximately 70,000 pregnant and nursing women who are underweight receive rations for six months before delivery and three months after birth. In addition, more than 7,000 malnourished children under five years of age receive corn-soya blend (CSB) to act as a supplement to a healthy meal. WFP currently offers food assistance to 6,000 HIV/AIDS patients undergoing ARV treatment as well.
WFP also provides food assistance for people in medical and social centres, including orphans, handicapped persons and those chronically ill. WFP gives food assistance to 4,300 beneficiaries.
High food prices have also been making the lives of the poorest even more difficult. WFP recently completed its Urban Response activities which provided food to poor households (mainly children and mothers) in the urban areas of Bujumbura Rural, Gitega and Ngozi in order to mitigate the impact of high fuel and food prices.