International Christian relief and development charity Tearfund is calling on the UK to support Burundi’s most vulnerable people, as data reveals that over half the population are chronically malnourished2. Burundi has faced decades of violence and political turmoil, alongside a changing climate causing droughts and flooding, which has left families across the country with severe food shortages and lack of medical care.
Recent elections and the referendum in May has given little hope to those facing daily struggles, with the existing administration under President Pierre Nkurunziza now able to extend the length of time they can remain in power.
Tearfund has worked in Burundi for over 30 years. Working alongside its two partner organisations in the region, Tearfund has set up around 36 temporary feeding centres distributing nutritious food, vitamins and supplements to pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under five. The appeal will help families to become self-sufficient and healthier in the months and years to come by teaching new farming techniques, educating people on nutrition and helping develop better hygiene practices at home.
Tearfund staff recently met Angelique, who brought her youngest son David to the feeding centre when he started showing signs of malnutrition. Angelique is raising David and her two other children alone since her husband moved to Tanzania a few months ago. Over 112,000 people have fled violence in Burundi to neighbouring countries since April 20151, meaning thousands of women are now trying to find food and provide for their families alone, while living under the constant threat of violence.
Angelique has visited the centre twice, where they found David to be severely malnourished, with an arm circumference of 11.5cm, nearly two centimetres narrower than the danger zone of 13cm.
She says, ‘The biggest challenge is providing food for the children. When there is no food, when you have nothing, life is hard. We grow very thin and lose the strength to work. When we can eat, we eat maize bread and cassava leaves. This is not good, as we cannot vary our diet. We don’t get the right nutrients. We eat at night and usually only once a day. When my husband was here, we could help one another and earn a little more. But alone, I am too weak.’
Tearfund partners gave David a nutritious ‘super cereal’ consisting of maize, groundnuts, soya and wheat, mixed with oil and sugar and provided vitamins and supplements to address any health issues caused by malnutrition.
Angelique says, ‘David can now eat and his health will improve, this makes me so happy.’
Tearfund’s Country Manager in Burundi, Desire Majambere, who is Burundian himself, has been leading the work on the ground:
‘The situation seems bleak but we must not turn our backs on Burundi. I have seen mothers begging for food for their children. The feeding centres go beyond providing food, they provide dignity. Mothers show me the colour of their children’s hair – after feeding, it is no longer discoloured by malnutrition. Children are back in school and are playing again. Mothers are now proud of the health of their children, they no longer feel ashamed. They hold their heads high with confidence. There is hope.’
‘Despite our struggles, we are still people – people who like dancing, playing volleyball by the lakes, laughing with our friends. But things are different now. Burundians are courageous and hardworking, they just need support to make the future brighter.’
Alongside feeding centres, Tearfund’s appeal will also provide families with what they need to grow their own soya, peanuts and vegetables, helping them to become independent and prepared for the future.
The public are encouraged to donate through the Tearfund website from 22 June by going to www.tearfund.org/burundiemergency
A donation of £42 can provide eight weeks of nutritious food plus vitamins and supplements for one child like David.