Refugee child Roger fled from Burundi to Uganda - War Child

Facts and figures

  • Population: 11.6 million
  • Population under 18 years: 5.9 million (50.4%)
  • Number of people in need: 1.77 million
  • Number of all refugees who are children: 50.4%
  • Number of War Child projects in 2019: One
  • Number of partner organisations: Two
  • Total participants: 54,500

National Context

Despite improvements in recent years, Burundi remains beset by post-conflict and instability. It remains the fifth poorest country in Africa with 80 per cent of the population living in poverty.

This enduring hardship is the legacy of civil war which erupted in 1993 between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups - claiming some 300,000 lives during its 13 years. Hundreds of thousands were internally displaced or sought refuge in neighbouring countries, mainly Tanzania.

In the last decade, more than half a million refugees have returned to Burundi but reintegration has been turbulent. Factors include a prolonged time in exile, land scarcity, poor infrastructure, natural disaster and high-levels of unemployment. Repatriates and existing residents (including internally displaced persons) compete for limited land and other resources.

Conditions deteriorated again after renewed violence erupted in April 2015, claiming nearly 500 lives and causing another outpouring of refugees into neighbouring states. In 2018 - following a political tripartite agreement between the Government of Burundi, the Government of Tanzania and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) -some 66,787 Burundian refugees[1], more than half of them children, have been welcomed back into various provinces of Burundi. Another 120,000 are expected to return by the end of 2019.

Burundi also hosts thousands of neighbouring refugees, most of whom are women and children. It currently hosts some 90,000 Congolese refugees, most of whom have fled armed conflict in the Kivu provinces.

Burundi also remains at high risk of an Ebola epidemic due to the ongoing outbreak in neighbouring DRC, and insufficient capacity to respond.

“I love the games of War Child. I especially like playing with the small tennis ball, dancing and rope jumping. I feel really happy when I can play!"
Elise (13) from Burundi

Situation of Children

More than half of all refugees in Burundi (50.4%) are under 18. Many have been separated from their parents and caregivers and have been forced to travel to safety alone. This particular group of children are exposed to significant risks – most markedly, the threat of sexual violence.

Approximately 60 per cent of the 130,562 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burundi are children. Many are at risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation and are exposed to acute risks including physical injury, economic exploitation and, ultimately, death.

What We Do

War Child has worked in partnership with national NGOs in Burundi since 2008 and established its own operations there in 2011. Our projects are designed to deliver psychosocial support, protection and education to children in various parts of Burundi. We support children who are particularly at risk by strengthening community-based child protection structures.

Our work to create safe and supportive environments provides a safe haven where children can process their experiences, rebuild confidence and trust and contribute towards a better future - both for themselves and their communities.

Key Project


Our project in Burundi, conducted in partnership with UNICEF, provides education, child protection and psychosocial support to over 51,000 people in five areas of Western Burundi. The majority (94.4%) are children.

The project focuses on the most vulnerable children – mostly IDPs, returnees, refugees, street children and children who do not have access to education. Many have reported instances of physical and domestic violence, psychological and sexual abuse and exploitation in their communities, both at home and at school. Children who are not in school are often at greatest risk.

The projects is designed to reintegrate children into school by working with teaching staff on their professional development and training them in positive discipline. It also aims to provide better access to psychosocial support, build children’s resilience and social integration and strengthen child protection at the community level.

Meisje met haar moeder gevlucht uit Burundi naar DRC - War Child

We work to meet the urgent needs of child refugees from neighbouring countries

Photo: War Child

Voices of Children

Jany (9) from Rumonge province is the ninth of 10 children. As a result of his physical disabilities, he has hasn’t been attending school and has spent much of his short life alone at home. His mother feels he’s a burden and his father considers him a ‘’divine curse’’.

To address this, we recently suggested to his parents that Jany participate in community activities in one of our Child Friendly Spaces in Rumonge. They agreed. We also visited them on several occasions to give them psychosocial support and to discuss the possibility of integrating Jany into the formal school system.

“I could not imagine for a second that my child could ever study!"
Jany's mother

Jany’s life has now completely changed. His parents have started to accompany him to the Child Friendly Space where he joins group activities with other children and they take him to church and parties. He is no longer isolated at home and has just enrolled in primary school. His mother also supports the Child Protection Committee by giving advice to other parents who have similar children with disabilities.