The Challenge

Burundi in East Africa has nearly nine million inhabitants covering 27,800 km². Since its independence in 1962, the country has experienced repeated political crises that have involved serious outbreaks of violence between the two main ethnic groups: the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi.

The economy of Burundi is mainly rural and based almost exclusively on agriculture – the export of coffee, tea or cotton and livestock. As a result, the economy remains fragile, because of its strong dependence on the primary sector which accounts for 40% of its GDP.

Nearly 70% of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the latest available estimates by World Bank (2012). At the bottom of the league for most development indicators, it is the fifth poorest country in the world. Malnutrition is rife, with 52% of children under-five chronically malnourished.

The HIV/AID epidemic

HIV/AIDS has an estimated national prevalence rate of 1.3% among adults aged between 15 and 49 years according to UNAIDS 2012 figures. Heterosexual contact is the main mode of transmission and women account for 60% of adults estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS.

A number of factors account for the staggering amount of people affected by the epidemic, and they include: poverty, the status of women, displacement and sexual violence against women due to the 13 years of conflict, the increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), poor communications and information, taboos related to sexuality, religious beliefs and more. Today, AIDS is the leading cause of death among adults and the leading cause of infant mortality in Burundi.

Despite the existence of institutions and local NGOs fighting against AIDS and HIV, there is still a long way to go in the field of voluntary screening and prevention. The Burundi AIDS Committee estimates a HIV infection rate of 9.5% in Bujumbura, but the reality is that very few people know their HIV status. In Bwiza and its surroundings, local officials estimate that 90% of households are affected by AIDS. Anti-retroviral drugs are free because they are provided by the Global Fund. However, many do not have access to basic healthcare for the treatment of common diseases. Mutual health payments cover only half of the costs of consultation and hospitalisation, drugs are often expensive and attendance at hospital is low.

Our areas of focus

FXB started work in Burundi in November 2006. Since then, FXB has completed six FXBVillage programs, bringing nearly 4,500 adults and children out of poverty. Its first program was the launch of Bwiza FXBVillage in Bujumbura city. Bujumbura has a population of around 700,000 and is built on the Lake Tanganyika plain. With 13 communes, each commune is divided into many neighborhoods, some of which lack in essential infrastructure. For example, Bwiza, a commune of 50,000 people, has no nutritional clinic or health center; this is the same in the neighbouring commune of Nyakabiga.

In Bujumbura, the average household size is seven. Families tend to be run by women who live off small businesses, selling food, charcoal, clothing and drinks. Some families do not earn enough to cover all their needs. The Government, with its very limited financial resources, is trying to promote the rights of the child, by providing primary healthcare for children under five and pregnant women, as well as offering free education at primary level.

The Batwa community (pygmy), which constitutes one percent of Burundi’s population, traditionally served as servants. The common perception of them in servitude continues to dominate their lives. The births of Batwa are unrecorded, so with no legal status they have no rights to public amenities such as health services. Approximately 15% of the participants in the Buterere I and II FXBVillage programmes are Batwa families (85% Burundian and 15% Batwa).

In May 2014, two FXBVillages are still ongoing in the Buterere commune, a particularly difficult community. Buterere currently serves as the garbage dumping ground for the surrounding municipalities because the city was less densely populated than its neighbouring cities.

Our future plans

  • Empower a further 200 families to overcome poverty. The mechanic for doing so is to create strong saving and lending groups, including two co-operatives
  • Ensure at least 1,000 children and their families live in safe, hygienic homes, with access to clean water and sanitation
  • Ensure at least 700 children regularly attend schools and perform well, with 40 youths completing vocational training and creating their own jobs
  • Ensure at least 10,000 adults have been educated about HIV/AIDS prevention, child protection and the reduction of child and female exploitation
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