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 28 percent of the population are food-secure and as many as 58 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 one fifth to more than one third of an annual average requirement of 1,746,000 tons of cereal, while food production has stagnated at pre-1993 levels. With a population growth rate of nearly three percent per annum, per capita agricultural production has declined by 24 percent since 1993. As a result, the average per capita production now stands at 1,472 kilocalories per day – the recommended minimum requirement is 2,100.
Even during harvest season, families spend up to two-thirds of their income on food. Burundi is one of the countries identified by both the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) as being among the most affected by soaring food prices. After so many years of conflict, the capacity of the government to respond to this new challenge is limited.
Like much of Central Africa, Burundi is also prone to natural disasters, with recurrent floods, hailstorms, drought and torrential rain. An unusually high number of natural disasters in recent years have contributed to the displacement of communities, the destruction of homes, the disruption of livelihoods and the further deterioration of food and nutrition security. In 2011, WFP assisted more than 72,000 vulnerable families affected by adverse climate events.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Burundi
Support for refugees
WFP assists over 20,000 refugees from the DR Congo in three refugee camps, with daily rations of 2,100 kilocalories. WFP also supports 44,000 returnees and expellees (Burundians without refugee status) from neighbouring countries.
Food-for-Training/Food-for-Assets activities target poor, rural households to increase agricultural production, improve access to markets and support income generating activities. Activities include infrastructure development, rehabilitation of deforested areas, agro-forestry and micro-economic training. These activities reach 350,000 beneficiaries.
WFP provides hot meals to children attending primary schools in food-insecure areas in order to encourage attendance, an increased attention span, enrollment and continued attendance. 200,000 children currently receive food assistance under this programme.
Approximately 70,000 pregnant and nursing women who are underweight receive rations for six months before delivery and three months after birth. In addition, more than 7,000 malnourished children under 5 years of age receive corn-soya blend as a supplement to their meals.
WFP currently offers food assistance to 6,000 HIV/AIDS patients undergoing ARV treatment as well as people in medical and social centres. These include orphans and people with disabilities and chronical illnesses, for a total of 4,300 beneficiaries. To mitigate the impact of high fuel and food prices, WFP provided food to poor families in the urban areas of Bujumbura Rural, Gitega and Ngozi.