Catholic Relief Services to commence second food distribution in Burundi Camps

CONTACT: Jennifer Lindsey
(410) 625-2220, ext. 3256
Bujumbura, Burundi, January 19, 2000 -- Responding to increasingly critical shortages in Burundi's overcrowded camps, Catholic Relief Services is today commencing food distributions in two camps around the capital city of Bujumbura. The distributions, consisting of cereals, beans and cooking oil provided by the World Food Program, are sufficient to provide 15-day rations for 47,000 people.

Conditions in the more than 50 camps now ringing the city have deteriorated since September, when government troops rounded up civilians and placed them in "regroupment" camps in and around Bujumbura. The camps, which arose as a government response to increasing rebel attacks in the region, are designed to provide government troops with more room to combat rebel forces operating the Burundi's lush countryside. Burundi has been fighting a civil war since 1993.

Movement in and out of all camps, which now contain an estimated 300,000 people, is restricted. No government assistance for either food or shelter has been provided. Outbreaks of cholera and dysentery have already occurred, and sanitary facilities, shelter and food supplies in most of the camps are inadequate.

"In some of the camps, people are allowed to return to their home to till their fields only once a week," explained David Rothrock, Catholic Relief Services Country Representative in Burundi. "In those camps, people are unable to provide for their own food needs."

Though Catholic Relief Services distributed more than 464 metric tons of food in October, the agency has thus far geared most of its efforts towards the distribution of non-food items, reaching more than 219,000 people with soap, plastic sheeting, water cans and blankets since early October. This latest food distribution comes in response to an increasing need for food in many of the camps.

"CRS has been concentrating on meeting the non-food needs, but recent evaluations have shown that food shortages are becoming increasingly critical at many sites," Rothrock said. "This food distribution is intended to increase the capacity of the World Food Program to reach all of those who need food."

Such shortages threaten to continue until the next harvest, however, which is not likely to take place in Burundi until May or June. In response to this need, Catholic Relief Services and other humanitarian agencies will begin late this month to distribute seeds for the next planting season.

Catholic Relief Services is the official overseas relief and development agency of the United States Catholic Church. Operating in more than 80 countries around the world, Catholic Relief Services provides assistance based solely on the basis of need, not race, creed, or nationality.

For more information about Catholic Relief Services and our programs around the world, visit our web site at http:www.catholicrelief.org.