Burundi

Burundi: Heading towards a silent famine

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Food For Africa
Action Against Hunger is calling for large-scale mobilisation of the international community towards a global humanitarian response to prevent the further spread of hunger on the African continent and to address the spread of HIV.

Africa's Hunger Hotspots - BURUNDI

In Burundi, Action Against Hunger is bearing witness to an increasing number of cases of severe malnutrition, harbinger of a serious food crisis.

The nutritional situation began deteriorating last September and numbers of severe malnutrition cases are now soaring. In four months, the number of children admitted to our therapeutic feeding centres in the Ruyigi, Ngozi and Kayanza provinces more than doubled, reaching 577 at the end of 2002.

Burundi is no stranger to chronic food crises, but this year a number of factors mean that the scope of the crisis is exceptional:

Poor weather conditions:

The October/November harvest was extremely poor due to light and irregular rains. Traditionally, the spring harvest allows people to reduce the shortfall in food. But the lack of rain in the first weeks of 2003 suggest that the new harvest will also be poor and insufficient in quality and quantity to respond to the short term needs of the population, and to the seed requirements of the next planting season.

Constant insecurity:

Burundi has been in the grip of civil war for many years. According to the UN, the war has resulted in nearly 300,000 deaths, 500,000 refugees and thousands of internally displaced people. From July to November 2002, armed conflict intensified in the eastern and central provinces, leading to lootings, robberies and significant internal displacement. Despite cease-fire agreements in October and December 2002, fighting has started up again. Today, certain zones are still inaccessible, in particular the Moso plain (in East Burundi, bordering with Tanzania) where the food crisis is expected to be more severe.

Malaria:

Since September 2002, several provinces have been hit by epidemics of malaria, which have seriously weakened the populations. For example, between September and October 2002 the number of malaria cases in the Kayanza region increased by 95%. These epidemics have played their part in the food crisis, adding to the burden of families already lacking in resources: sick family members need costly medicines and health care and are unable to work.

Cont...

At the same time, prices are being pushed up by the scarcity of basic food supplies and the devaluation of the local currency, and this trend looks likely to continue in the coming months.

In response to this emergency, Action Against Hunger is stepping up its programmes of assistance and nutrition. In addition, mobile teams are visiting remote areas to ensure that cases of malnutrition are diagnosed in time.

In order to halt the deterioration of the nutritional situation, the international community must mobilise immediately for general food distributions to be carried out all over the country.

AFRICA'S HUNGER HOTSPOTS

Burundi is just one of the hunger hotspots in Africa, where populations are at acute risk of hunger. Action Against Hunger is drawing attention to the plight of the populations in:

Angola
Chad
DR Congo
Ethiopia
Guinea
Ivory Coast
Kenya
Liberia
Malawi
Mali
Niger
Sierra Leone
Somalia
Sudan
Uganda
Zimbabwe
+Many more

The international community set the objective of the Rome Declarations to reduce by half the number of chronically undernourished people in the world by 2015, but continues to ignore areas of Africa that constantly struggle to meet food requirements. Action Against Hunger stresses that to fulfil this objective, the international community must reassert its commitment to long term assistance. Action Against Hunger is calling for large-scale mobilisation of the international community towards a global humanitarian response to prevent the further spread of hunger on the African continent and to address the spread of HIV.

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Sophie Noonan / Cara Wilkins
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