A land-locked, low-income country in East Africa, Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 185th out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index. More than 65 percent of the population lives in poverty. Burundi has the highest hunger score and is the 9th food security crisis in the world, sharing similar levels with Somalia, according to the 2018 World Food Security Report. More than 50% of the population is chronically food insecure in a country where the total annual production of food would only cover for 55 days per person per year (FAO, Dec 2017). One in three Burundians is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
The prevalence of chronic malnutrition in Burundi is the highest in the world, with an estimated economic impact of US$102 million a year. 56 percent of children are stunted. Underlying drivers for undernutrition include poverty, poor access to clean water, and worsening access to basic services such as health and education. A high prevalence of infectious diseases, lack of diversity in diets and poor hygiene make the situation worse. Adding to the pressure on Burundi’s limited resources, over 36,000 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are hosted in already food-insecure areas and rely on assistance for basic food and nutrition.
Only 32 percent of Burundi’s children complete their lower secondary education, and gender equality is among the poorest in the world. The majority of the country’s poor are in rural areas, where living conditions are harsh and people rely heavily on subsistence agriculture and informal employment. A hilly landscape makes the country vulnerable to natural disasters, in particular droughts, floods, and mudslides.
Social and political tensions around Burundi’s contested presidential elections in 2015 have had an adverse effect on economic activity and food security, resulting in around 150,000 people being displaced within Burundi and over 400,000 fleeing to neighbouring countries. Political instability continues to pose a challenge to ending hunger by 2030, not least because it has led to a nearly 50 percent decrease in contributions from major international donors.
Working in conjunction with other United Nations agencies, the World Food Programme (WFP) is supporting the Government of Burundi in providing life-saving support to the country’s poorest people, addressing the root causes of undernutrition and improving the country’s resilience with practical interventions and policy change. WFP’s activities include providing immediate and longer-term assistance to those in crisis, supporting schoolchildren and smallholder farmers and promoting gender equality.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Burundi
Combating food insecurity and malnutrition
WFP provides immediate emergency assistance to those living in the most severely food-insecure areas. Working with the Government and other UN agencies, WFP helps strengthen the country’s own social protection system and capacity to cope with emergencies and supports the implementation of a national strategy to combat malnutrition and food insecurity through initiatives such as food fortification and climate adaptation.
Supporting smallholder farmers
WFP supports smallholder farmers with the aim of increasing the food security and incomes of poor rural households, particularly those run by women. WFP works to increase access to markets and finance, and helps to build systems that combine local smallholders’ produce and improve their management of it after harvesting.
WFP provides practical and strategic support for local development plans designed to help vulnerable communities build their resilience, strengthening their capacity to cope with and recover from crises. These activities include malnutrition prevention, establishing village savings and loan associations, providing school meals and widening education on family planning.