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Food Distribution to Kirundo by Churches and other Christian Organisations
 
EAB PRESS 050206-1
February 6, 2005

[EAB Press - Burundi] Travelling north from the town of Kirundo the sight of rice and bananas growing soon disappeared. Plots contained shrivelled, stunted maize and sunflowers, or nothing at all.

Usually there would be two harvests per year but there has been much sunshine and little rain. The rain that has fallen has either come at the wrong time or has been insufficient.
There has been no rain since May 2004. It has therefore been impossible to prepare the land for sowing that would normally be done at the end of September, beginning of October. By January crops of maize, cassava, potatoes, and sorghum should have been available but nothing has been sown and consequently there has been nothing to harvest. The drought has also affected the coffee that is used locally but also exported. The amount of fish available from the nearby lakes has also reduced. An additional problem in the area is that when heavy rainfall has occurred it has caused flooding that has swept crops into the lakes.

In order to survive the very poor have resorted to eating grass or the leaves of the tobacco plants. There is hunger, malnutrition, and illness. There have been some deaths. Those with money buy cassava flour from traders passing through to other provinces. Sometimes it is possible to get potatoes from Rwanda. However all prices are inflated. Rice can be bought, but traders sell at high prices because no other food is available. (1 kg. of rice used to be 300FBU and is now 700FBU). Some of it is sold to other markets or illegally to Rwanda. People are selling their goats and cows, even their land, to survive.

On this occasion the total amount available for distribution was 57 tons. Churches, including the Episcopal Church of Burundi, and other Christian organisations donated 27 tons of maize flour, 22 tons of beans, 2.5 tons of salt, 2.5 tons of oil, 1 ton of sugar, and 2 tons of rice.

The beneficiaries numbered 3,660 and represented needy households. For the distribution they were assembled in 244 groups of 15 people, and were identified by a ticket of authorisation. Logistically the distribution went well, in an orderly, disciplined manner, and was supervised by representatives from the donors. It took approximately five and a half hours. Once the distribution was complete, each group was responsible for sharing the food among its members. Sacks and gerricans were returned for future use. Young children were quick to start gathering beans that had spilt on the ground. A few people sat around throughout the day, hopeful of receiving something. Malnutrition was evident. Some of the children, for example, displayed retarded growth. One baby, for example, looked a few months old but was actually one year old.

The Sisters of Charity, who are working near to the town of Kirundo, received 1 ton of sugar, 2 tons of rice, and 100 kg of dried milk with a view to it being distributed to the most needy, especially women and children.

The local administration, who were very helpful and co-operative, praised the the way the distribution was organised. It was the largest in that area so far.

A further distribution is planned for the province of Muyinga, in the east of Burundi, where there are similar problems.