Since 1993, large-scale ethnic violence has plagued Burundi and has resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 people and the displacement of over a million more. CRS/Burundi has been involved since the onset of the crisis in 1993 in emergency response activities to this ongoing crisis. Given this constant activity, the agency has become - for two years - the United Nations/Non-Governmental Organizations lead agency in Burundi for the nation-wide non-food items focus (including doing needs assessments, distributions, coordination, compiling stock of relief items, etc.).
Recently over 300,000 people were forced from their homes into camps in the hills surrounding the capital city of Bujumbura. This was done by the military to try to stop the rebel attacks against the city of Bujumbura. The people are living in makeshift banana leaf huts. The rains have begun and people, primarily women and children, are living in dreadful conditions lacking descent shelter, sanitation and food.
In response to this crisis, Catholic Relief Services distributed 15,500 pieces of plastic sheeting for shelter, 35,600 blankets, 76,000 pieces of soap and 14,800 water cans for potable water to 140,000 people. Catholic Relief Services will also be distributing additional food donated by the United Nations World Food Program.
There does not seem to be an end in sight to these types of camps which means that food and non-food distributions will need to continue to alleviate the suffering of the regrouped populations.
Rwanda is also in a vulnerable position regionally with the current conflict in Congo. Catholic Relief Services is one of only a handful of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that was able to provided much-needed agricultural rehabilitation assistance in the Gisenyi Prefecture in northwestern Rwanda. For 11,000 people who recently returned to their homes the project increased their food output by 1300 metric tons of potatoes and 785 metric tons of mixed vegetables. These yields for potatoes were even higher than the expected 990 metric tons beneficiaries were hoping for.
The project, done in coordination with the Diocesan Development Office of Gisenyi/Nyundo, was further expanded to include two other communes, Rwerere and Kanama, also in the Gisenyi Prefecture. This project improved the food security situation of 30,000 recently returning and other vulnerable families.
The impact of the current civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has also taken its toll on populations throughout the country. In response to fighting in the west, CRS/Congo has implemented rehabilitation projects in Kinshasa and is now rehabilitating health clinics and schools in Bas Congo. CRS/Congo is providing emergency food aid to refugees who have fled the fighting in the neighboring Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). CRS/Congo continues to monitor the situation closely in Eastern Congo.
Background of the Situation
The Great Lakes region in Africa has been gripped throughout this decade by ongoing political, security, social, and humanitarian crises. Continued insecurity in Rwanda and Burundi have intersected with political/ethnic conflict and now civil war in Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo), leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and even more displacement in one of the most complex emergency situations ever known.