• Violence in Burundi
    Emergency response for thousands of refugee children
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Burundi

Rebuilding social structures to help protect children from violence - and improve their future prospects.

National context

Burundi has been beset by conflict and instability for many years. Burundi is one of the poorest countries in Africa, with some 80 per cent of the population living in poverty. This enduring hardship is the legacy of the civil war which erupted in 1993 between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups. The conflict lasted until 2006 and claimed some 300,000 lives. 
 
The humanitarian situation inside Burundi remains tense. President Nkurunziza’s decision to stay in office in April 2015 sparked an attempted military coup. The coup failed but was followed by an outbreak of unrest which claimed nearly 500 lives - and sporadic episodes of violence are continuing. The political and economic crisis has seen massive numbers of refugees leave Burundi for neighbouring states since April 2015. UNHCR figures from December 2017 show that some 428,000 Burundians are still refugees in neighboring countries - more than half of whom are under the age of 18. 
 
This situation is, however, slowly improving - some 10,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania were repatriated to Burundi voluntarily before the end of 2017.
 

Situation of children

More than half of all Burundian refugees are below the age of 18 - many of whom have been separated from their parents and caregivers and forced to travel to safety alone. This particular group of children are exposed to significant risks - in particular the threat of sexual violence.
 
In addition, approximately 60 per cent of the 209,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) inside Burundi are children. Many of them are at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation. The unstable situation inside the capital Bujumbura has seen violent exchanges between security forces and armed rebel groups as well as economic devastation. Children as a result are exposed to risks including physical injury, economic exploitation and, ultimately, death. 
 
Across the entire country access to education is severely limited - threatening to create a ‘lost generation’ with few future prospects.

 

What we do

War Child has worked in partnership with national NGOs inside Burundi since 2008 and established its own operations there in 2011. War Child works on rebuilding social structures inside Burundi and connecting them with at-risk children by strengthening the capacity of community-based structures concerning child protection.
 
Our projects are designed to deliver protection, psychosocial support and education to children inside Burundi. Our work to create safe and supportive environments provides the space where children can process their traumatic experiences, rebuild their confidence and contribute towards a better future - both for themselves and their communities.

 

Our projects

Emergency Response Programme for Burundian Refugee Children 

War Child has set up an emergency response project to provide direct support to children, young people and their caregivers living in a refugee camp near Uvira in neighbouring DRC. Child Friendly Spaces are a major component of this project.

Child Protection and Psychosocial Support in Burundi

Initiative to reinforce and strengthen local child protection systems through the capacity building of community structures. This project also encompasses training for children on child rights issues, allowing them to express their needs and ideas 

Voices of children

Forced to Flee 

Elise is 13 years old and lives with her mother in a refugee camp in eastern DR Congo. She was forced to flee her home in Burundi following the outbreak of violence in the summer of 2015. Her journey to safety was an extremely difficult one. 
 
“My father was already killed in February,” Elise told us. “My mother was afraid we would also be killed and so we decided to flee to DR Congo (DRC). We fled on foot at night because of the danger. We arrived in DRC in the morning.”

 

“One of my siblings died when we fled and now I only live with my mother in the refugee camp.”  

 
 
Elise now takes part in War Child’s emergency response programme inside one of the larger refugee camps. The programme allows children like Elise to participate in psychosocial support activities designed to help them process their traumatic experiences and protect them from further harm. 
 
Elise is back in school for the first time in a long while - but it is the creative activities she enjoys most. “I love the games of War Child,” she says. “I especially like playing with the small tennis ball, dancing and rope jumping. I feel really happy when I can play!”