Fifteen years of civil war since 1993, combined with extreme poverty, a fragile political process and recurrent climatic shocks, have had a strongly negative impact on Burundi’s economic and nutrition indicators. Only 19 percent of the population is food-secure and as many as 46 percent are chronically malnourished.
Food security for the majority of Burundians has not improved in recent years, despite a gradual return to peace. Average annual food deficits in Burundi range from 300,000 to over 400,000 metric tons, while food production has stagnated at pre-1993 levels. With a population growth rate of nearly three percent per year, per capita agricultural production has declined by 24 percent since 1993. As a result, the average per capita production now stands at 1,400 kilocalories per day (the recommended minimum requirement is 2100). Even during harvest season, households spend up to 60 percent of their income on food.
Burundi is one of the ‘red zone’ countries identified by both FAO and WFP as likely to be most affected by soaring food prices. After many years of conflict, the capacity of the government to respond to this new challenge is limited.
WFP assistance reaches a monthly average of 717,000 people in the food-insecure north and north-eastern areas of Burundi. Distributions target the most vulnerable households, and are designed to invest in rural livelihoods, nutrition and education.
Targeted relief is distributed to households selected through assessments, reaching the poorest farming families during the most critical food shortage period.
Assistance to refugees, asylum seekers and returnees continues. Food for Work projects provide a safety net for the poorest families, improving yields and protecting assets they might otherwise sell to buy food. WFP’s school feeding programme reaches seven of Burundi’s most food-insecure provinces, encouraging regular attendance and completion of primary education.
WFP also provides food assistance to therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres as part of its nutrition programme targeting children and their mothers. HIV/Aids patients on anti-retroviral drugs receive food rations to maintain their nutritional status while undergoing treatment.
In 2008, the reintegration of returnees from Tanzania is a priority. Between January and July 2008 nearly 60,000 people returned to Burundi. A further 118,000 are expected before the end of the year.
Another challenge is high food prices, which are making the lives of the poorest more difficult than ever. WFP is conducting countrywide assessments with its partners in order to design short, medium and long term assistance which best addresses this new challenge.
WFP Burundi works with around 145 partner UN agencies and NGOs, including CARE, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, GTZ and CARITAS.