Despite the signing of several political agreements, the humanitarian situation, notably in Ruyigi, remains precarious due to increased fighting. For almost a month the UN and INGOs have had restricted access to vulnerable populations in parts of the Moso Region (Ruyigi Province). At this time, the UN is also concerned that a poor harvest in the current season, combined with a "stock rupture" in WFP food, may signal the beginning of a major humanitarian crisis in the weeks ahead.
UNICEF, WFP and the Ministry of Health held a workshop (January 14) on the new policy to integrate nutrition activities within the national health system.
The Ministry of Agriculture, FAO, UNICEF and WFP also conducted a joint evaluation on food security for the season 2003A.
The report, available in February, indicates the country's nutritional status will deteriorate until the 2003A harvest in February. It also suggests stock put aside from 2003A will not cover their needs until the 2003B harvest in June, requiring additional assistance.
In January, WFP has distributed 4,008 Mt of food to 365,867 drought-affected populations in twelve provinces. Insecurity and weak pipeline have affected planned distributions.
"Facing the increasing needs and the current available food, WFP Burundi needs new donations to come forward soon", report WFP.
More timely deliveries are necessary to cope with the increasing needs in Burundi.
WFP has announced that they are projected to have a complete stock rupture in cereals and pulses, the two main components of the food rations provided, from March.
Rebel offensives continue despite ceasefire
During January fighting between the Military and the rebel groups CNDD-FDD and FNL intensified, causing the temporary displacement of more than 100,00 people. In Ruyigi Province, an ambush on a military vehicle led to the killing of 10 Army members in Nyabitare, Gisuru Commune (18 January). Engulfing Gitega Province, notably Giheta Commune, and Ruyigi Province (Gisuru, Kinyinya and Nyabitsinda communes) the rebels quickly spread to the bordering provinces of Muramvya and Kayanza. Clashes were also reported in the provinces of Bubanza, Bujumbura Marie and Bujumbura Rural.
Widespread recruitment by CNDD-FDD was reported in Gitega, Rutana, Muyinga and Bubanza provinces despite the ceasefire. Palipehutu-FNL is accused of ongoing abductions and killings.
UN Security Council
On Thursday 30th January, Members of the United Nations Security Council welcomed progress by the National Transitional Government of Burundi (NTGoB) and rebel leaders towards settling the nation's conflict.
The current President of the Council, Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière (France) said in a statement to the press that Members welcomed the signing on the 25th and 27th of January of the Memorandum of Understanding between the NTGoB and CNDD/FDD (Jean Bosco Ndayikengurukiye) and the Palipehutu-FNL (Dr. Alain Mugabarabona), and the Joint Declaration of Agreement with CNDD-FDD (Pierre Nkurunziza).
The Members hailed the decision of Ndayikengurukiye and Mugabarabona to return to Burundi on 10 February and start cantonment of their troops in mid-February.
Council members "encouraged the parties to respect the commitments they have undertaken and underscored the importance for all parties to fulfil their obligations regarding the transition scheduled for May". In this regard, the Members urged Joint Declaration signatories to refrain from military action, stop recruitment and continue negotiations.
The SC demanded Palipehutu-FNL (Agathon Rwasa) immediately cease hostilities and join the peace process with a view to negotiating a ceasefire agreement without further delay; otherwise, "they risk being branded a terrorist organisation by the global community", Deputy South African President Jacob Zuma said.
FNL's Political Advisor, Pasteur Habimana, told AFP that the SC "have no right to make such an appeal". FNL refuse to take part in unconditional negotiations.
Vaccine delayed in Burundi
Due to a global shortfall of vaccine supply the introduction of Pentavalent vaccine (DPT-Hib+ Hep B) in Burundi will be delayed. A joint UNICEF and WHO mission was conducted to Burundi on 29-31 January to discuss alternatives with the government and WHO and UNICEF offices in the country. The one injection of Pentavalent vaccine will, as an interim solution, be replaced by one injection of Monovalent Hep B and one injection of DTP-hib for 2004.
UNHCR report (28th January) 2,065 facilitated returnees and 1,255 spontaneous returnees. The total number of returnees for 2003 is 3,320.
WFP assistance to primary school children
WFP started (20-26 January) to provide food assistance to 21 primary schools in Karuzi Province (northeastern Burundi) under the School-Feeding Programme. The programme will initially cover 14,363 pupils (6,706 schoolgirls) in four of the seven communes.
During the same period, food was delivered to eight schools with 5,559 children (2,693 girls) benefiting from hot meals served at school.
This programme is implemented in the partnership with World Vision. WFP food assistance to schools is an incentive to retain children at school.
Norwegian Refugee Council urges adherence to UN Guiding Principles
In a statement issued 23 January, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) addressed the need for the protection of IDPs in Burundi and appealed to "conflicting parties to respect the legal rights of the internally displaced persons as detailed in the UN Guiding Principles On Internal Displacement." All active partners, the authorities and humanitarian community, are "also requested to apply and respect the Guiding Principles in their activities" and to assist the internally displaced persons in Gitega", said the NRC.
HIV/AIDS among returnees in Burundi's northeast
UNICEF conducted a planning session for HIV/AIDS prevention with the Focal Point field officers appointed in seven provinces in January. The aim of the meeting was to identify activities and strategies of HIV/AIDS prevention in emergency situations especially targeting returnees. The northeastern provinces are registering considerable number of returnees (1,872 in Kirundo and Muyinga provinces as of January 28th) who need to be sensitised through community animators. In addition, UNICEF received funding from UNAIDS to support a coordination network of youth associations working in HIV/AIDS prevention. The funding will allow the participation of youth in prevention strategies through regional and national consultation.
UN Contingency Planning Workshop held
A full-day contingency planning session was conducted (30 January) by OCHA in the capital, Bujumbura. The bi-annual meeting identified various scenarios for the humanitarian situation in Burundi in 2003. The workshop seeks to strengthen response capacities among UN agencies, in conjunction with INGOs and the donor community. Participants included UN agencies (7), Donors (3), and INGOs (8).
Arrival of 35 ceasefire observers imminent
Through the Joint Declaration of Agreement (signed January 27) the parties (TNGoB and Nkurunziza's CNDD-FDD) formally agreed to two "food supply points to the combatants of the CNDD-FDD in Bubanza and Ruyigi". The second food distribution (the first took place on Sunday 29 December in Bubanza) was completed on 1 February in Bubanza. A planned distribution to Ruyigi Province on 3 February was cancelled after the parties failed to agree an amicable distribution point.
In their Declaration, the parties also called for the immediate deployment of the African Union Military Observer Mission and urged the facilitator to expedite the rapid deployment of peacekeepers.
The Burundi Minister for External Relations announced Friday 31 January the imminent arrival (4 February) of 35 Observers (Burkina Faso, Gabon, Togo and Tunisia) under Tunisian command. The actual African Mission Force (AMF) will comprise elements from South Africa, Mozambique and Ethiopia.
President Buyoya's message for 2003
In President Buyoya's New Year message to the nation he urged the remaining rebels to drop opposition to peace-talks: "We call on this recalcitrant group (FNL) to finally, and without delay, join other Burundians who have decided to bury the hatchet of war".
Regarding the ceasefire accord implementation: "We will change the organisation of the defence and security bodies in line with the Arusha Agreement and the recently signed ceasefire". And to the serving members of the military and police force President Buyoya reassured them they: "will be given the possibility to be useful to themselves and the country".
On his visit to Burundi (15 January) South African Deputy-President stated that three countries (South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique) plan to deploy troops by the end of January to monitor a ceasefire between the Burundi Military and CNDD-FDD (Pierre Nkurunziza). Though Deputy-President Zuma had set an end-of -- month deadline, Mr Lekota, South Africa's Defence Minister, admitted it was: "Too early to say when the force would be deployed or what size it would be".
Amnesty International appeal for child prisoners
On 27 January Amnesty International (AI) launched a campaign to raise the issue of "child prisoners", highlighting Alexandre Nzeyimana's plight, who, believed to be aged 12, is being detained without charge in Mpimba central prison, Bujumbura.
AI assert that this is in violation of Burundian law, which states that no child under the age of 13 may be detained.
According to AI, with more than 4,600 detainees awaiting trial out of a prison population of over 8,000, Nzeyimana could spend years in prison before he gets the chance to prove his age in court.
Child detainees previously interviewed by have spoken of sexual abuse by co-detainees. Although in Mpimba central prison, juveniles sleep separately, during the day they are with adult inmates, and are vulnerable to abuse. Many child detainees also face malnutrition because of meagre prison rations.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Burundi is party, states that when there is genuine doubt with regard to a child's age, any decision should be in favour of the child.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.