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Crisis in Northern Burundi
EAB PRESS 050114-1
January 14, 2005

[EAB Press - Burundi] As the world rightly responds to the loss of life and devastation caused by the tsunami that hit south-east Asia, Burundi is having to deal with another crisis of its own that is claiming lives every day.

The province of Kirundo is situated in the north of Burundi and is an area of great natural beauty, with lakes, hills and valleys. The fertile land produced beans and sorghum for the whole country. However, that beauty and productivity is marred at the present time by drought, with valley floors dried up and subject to fires, and vegetation disappearing.

For the last 3 years the rains have either been insufficient, or have come at the wrong time for crops to be planted, to grow, or to be harvested. This situation has resulted in food shortages across the region. There are now few, if any, supplies of sweet potatoes and cooking bananas. The problem has been compounded by the fact that the cassava (manioc) plant became diseased resulting in a lack of flour and vegetable cassava.

The situation is fast becoming an emergency as the neighbouring provinces of Muyinga and Ngozi are also affected. Hunger is widespread with deaths occurring on a daily basis. An increasing number of people are now at risk. With large families to feed, they grow cassava and beans and keep goats in order to provide for their families. With the failure of the cassava crops, goats have had to be sold to raise a little money in order to buy from those with produce to sell. Hope diminishes for such people as the little they have disappears and they become totally dependent on help from others. Children are suffering from malnutrition. The most vulnerable are prone to disease especially from unclean water fetched from the lakes in gerricans.

Life is particularly hard for those still living in camps for the internally displaced due to the war. Many choose to remain in the camps where there is a sense of security and where they are known, and where they have a basic thatched shelter. Although some still possess a plot of land, they have no means to return, or rebuild houses that have been destroyed. They exist without electricity, or means of transport to get to markets that are many hours’ walk away, and have to rely on people or relatives passing by to give them a kilo of flour or beans since the climate has made cultivation impossible. The current crisis has left many of them with nothing.

As awareness of the crisis has become known, help has begun to reach the area, but responses have been slow and too late for some. Much more assistance is urgently needed.

Pray that the Churches, Government, NGOs and other agencies will make appropriate responses so that people receive basic food supplies and are enabled to develop effective strategies for agriculture in the future.