Burundi + 3 more

Back on the Brink? Burundi Crisis 2015 Rapid Assessment Report

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Against the backdrop of recent political events within Burundi, Save the Children International, together with Terre des Hommes Lausanne and War Child Holland, conducted an inter-agency Rapid Assessment (RA) in Burundi in late June 2015. The sample group for the RA was small, using a mixture of random and purposive sampling, blending together a mixture of confidential Key Informant (KI) and Household Interviews with Focus Group Discussions. The assessment targeted a wide cross section of community members from four provinces, which incorporated both rural and urban areas of Burundi. The use of purposive sampling, the rapid nature of the assessment and the limited sample size means that the information is indicative in nature. It should also be stressed that while this report refers to groups in favour or opposed to the President’s Third Mandate campaign, the appropriateness of either perspective is not within the purview of this document, and as independent non-governmental agencies, we have no affiliation to any political party.

At this crucial juncture in Burundi’s history, the expectation is that this RA will provide a useful snapshot of:

a) the issues impacting on children as a consequence of the political/economic crisis and b) the likely impact on children if the crisis escalates, with a specific focus on child protection issues. Headline conclusions include:

Historical Precedent: The warning signs are there. Preparedness is key. Since Independence, Burundi has suffered numerous political and economic crises. A cursory review of the data from the last 50 years reveals numerous periods in which high refugee and IDP numbers are the norm, not the exception. In 1999, Refugees and IDPs represented 20% of the Burundian population, a scenario which, if repeated today, would equate to over 2 million people displaced. The data also highlights certain patterns in population movements, areas of risk and indigenous coping mechanisms that are likely to be relevant in the unfortunate event that the crisis escalates. It is practical, not pessimistic, to proactively take these lessons into account for the purposes of preparedness planning. A failure to prepare effectively within Burundi will further accentuate the exportation of the crisis to neighbouring countries The Economic Squeeze: Close to breaking point? 100% of respondents cited a reduction in household income and an increase in prices, with Bujumbura the worst hit. A continuation of the crisis beyond a further 5 to 6 weeks (early/mid-August 15) is likely to represent the breaking point for most households in Bujumbura and strain the capacity of households in the “Interior”. In the event that the crisis escalated rapidly, the “tipping point” could come far sooner.

Composition of Refugees: Rising numbers of political refugees. As of July 13th 2015, refugee numbers across Burundi’s neighbours total approximately 166,000. Although the majority are economic refugees, it is apparent that, as defined by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many thousands, particularly amongst those going to Rwanda, are political refugees, fearful that their political views could lead to reprisals. Such a trend could have important ramifications for sub regional dynamics.

IDPs: A lot more IDPs than people think? At present, there are no official IDPs numbers ascribed to the present crisis. Nevertheless, respondent reports indicate that many thousands have seemingly already moved within the country, typically to hosts amongst family and friends. Looking at data from the last 20 years, it seems probable that if the crisis continues, there will soon be a substantial IDP population in Burundi. It is also notable that high numbers of families have relocated to calmer Quartiers in Bujumbura. This heightens the possibility of a rapid spike in IDPs in the short term if Bujumbura becomes more volatile.

Impact of crisis on children: Bad and getting worse. The political and economic situation is already starting to have a negative impact on the lives of children, particularly in unstable parts of Bujumbura. Incipient malnutrition, closed schools and clinics, reduced access to health care and numerous and increasing child protection challenges are being reported. Refugee populations have already reported high numbers of SGBV and the separation of children, and the possibility that these numbers will greatly increase in the event of further and more chaotic mass displacement is a major concern.