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Forgotten crises: fighting hunger in Burundi

Land is scarce in Burundi. Welthungerhilfe helps people make better use of agricultural land.

Land is scarce in Burundi. Welthungerhilfe helps people make better use of agricultural land., © Welthungerhilfe

28.01.2021 - Article

A civil war lasting 13 years ended in 2005 but the people continue to face many challenges posed by disease, climate change and above all else hunger. The German NGO Welthungerhilfe wants to help people make more efficient use of agricultural land in northern Burundi.

The Federal Foreign Office is providing 1.6 million euro to this end.

Agricultural land is scarce

On 12 January 2021, the non-governmental organisation CARE published its annual report focusing on forgotten crises with a list of regions and countries which barely featured in public discourse in 2020 despite grave humanitarian emergencies. Tragic victor was Burundi: there was no other country which was reported on less.

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world and some 1.7 million people living there are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Many of them depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Yet land is scarce in Burundi, 11 million people are living in an area about the same size as Brandenburg. For many, hunger is omnipresent. There is hardly anywhere else in the world where the proportion of people suffering from chronic malnutrition is so high. What is more, 60% of all under-fives are chronically undernourished which has a long-term impact on their physical and mental development.

The political situation in the country makes it extremely difficult for humanitarian aid organisations to do their work. In autumn 2018, the Government withdrew the work permits from all non-governmental organisations and instructed them to reapply within three months. As a result, some organisations left the country.

Welthungerhilfe: Working for more efficient and more sustainable agriculture

With the help of the Federal Foreign Office, Welthungerhilfe relaunched its work in Kirundo province in northern Burundi in March 2019. Kirundo is particularly badly hit by drought. The aim therefore is not just to alleviate the omnipresent hunger problem but also to make better use of the little agricultural land available. Together with the people on the ground, Welthungerhilfe staff draw up plans to ensure their fields can be used in a more sustainable and more efficient manner. The results speak for themselves. Extending the range of products and distributing high-quality seeds for sweet potatoes, beans and other vegetables has generated a larger harvest for 80% of all households involved.

Health and hygiene measures

People weakened by hunger are furthermore considerably more susceptible to disease. With the help of the project, steps have therefore been taken to implement comprehensive health and hygiene measures, to equip local medical establishments with hygiene kits, to improve access to clean water and to set up local health committees which meet regularly. Originally, all these steps were designed to protect people from Ebola. But since last year, other health-related measures were extended, for example to schools, also with a view to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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