With thousands of families in Burundi exposed to multiple emergencies including civil unrest, the El Niño weather phenomenon, and food insecurity, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has launched an Emergency Appeal of 1.5 million Swiss francs to ensure those in need receive the urgent support they deserve.
“Our immediate concern is that families have access to the basics needed to survive in such a complex environment,” said Andreas Sandin, IFRC operations coordinator, eastern Africa. “Working through the Burundi Red Cross, we will provide shelter, health care, and distribute essential household supplies to at least 100,000 people over the next six months.”
Approximately 250,000 people have fled Burundi since political unrest erupted in April 2015. The thousands of families who have remained have had to endure the effects of a very strong El Niño which brought extensive rains and flooding to 15 out of 18 provinces, destroying more than 5,000 homes and thousands of hectares of cultivated fields. Coupled with the civil unrest, this has increased the number of people who are in dire need of food, as well as those suffering from malnutrition.
Close to 80,000 people are believed to be internally displaced. There has been an increase in malaria with more than 1 million cases and 520 deaths reported; cholera, which is also endemic, has been reported along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika and the Burundi-Tanzania border.
“The combination of these various emergencies has, understandably, made it difficult for families to cope, with the cumulative effect being that even small-scale hazards now have the potential to be disastrous,” added Sandin. “Any further escalation of political-related violence, which remains a serious threat, would likely overshadow the current impact of the emergencies. The humanitarian situation in Burundi is at a critical stage, and we need to step up our response to meet the needs of affected families.”
In addition, the ongoing unrest has impacted the economy, which is slowly collapsing after many donors reduced their support to the Burundi government. There is also a 50 per cent probability that the region will experience a La Niña phenomenon later in the year, further disrupting the livelihoods of thousands of families.
Accepted as the lead humanitarian agency in the country, the Burundi Red Cross has 450,000 volunteers, many of whom have been on the frontlines of the response since April 2015. With the support of Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners, the National Society has distributed food to between 180,000 and 250,000 people per month; distributed 2,250 non-food item and hygiene kits; activated 14 emergency health posts which are manned by volunteers who provide first aid and have evacuated more than 700 injured persons to treatment facilities; and lead various sectors at camps for refugees and the internally displaced.
“We have a window of opportunity to further assist families who will continue to face an extremely challenging living environment for the months to come,” said Sandin. “We call on our partners to support our efforts to ensure they receive the maximum support possible with the resources available."