It's bleak in Burundi but there is hope

Working through the local churchEthnic ConflictRefugeesBurundi

Political instability in Burundi is causing hardship and suffering for ordinary people on an enormous scale. Nearly a year of insecurity has left 900,000 people facing hunger, unable to cope with rising food prices caused by the economic fallout following a disputed presidential election. And this is in a country where poverty is widespread and 90 per cent of Burundians rely on small-scale agriculture for a living. Tearfund is one of the few international aid organiations supporting humanitarian work in Burundi. Our partner, the Anglican Diocese of Matana is helping to feed the most desperate. Here are some of their stories from Bururi province:

Habonimana Daphrose and children. Photo: Will Baxter/Tearfund

Habonimana Daphrose, 30, is married with seven children:

'Our four-year-old son Horusenga Zachee was very ill. He had lost his appetite and was very thin. Our neighbours told us to consult witchdoctors if we wanted him to survive. But as Christians, we refused their advice and we asked for the prayers of other Christians for the child.

'One day, we were informed there are people who help such children, here at the Anglican Church of Kiruri. I brought my child and when they put him on the scales, he weighed 5kgs. He was diagnosed with severe malnutrition.

'They gave us the porridge and taught us how to prepare it. I did exactly as I had been taught, and after a month the child weighed 6.5kgs, after two months 8kgs. He started to get his appetite back, to speak and even to play with the others, which he didn’t do before.

'Now, he weighs 14kgs. You can see yourself how he is in good health. I’m very glad.

'The church also encouraged us to farm cereals, and to prepare the flour ourselves without having to receive it from them.

'May God bless Tearfund and the Anglican Church of Matana for this great work. Now, I support all my neighbours to feed their children better so that they don’t become ill.'

Ndayisenga Agnes and children. Photo: Will Baxter/Tearfund

Ndayisenga Agnes, 35, has a seven-year-old daughter, Bimenyimana Yvette, who had been suffering from malnutrition until the church offered assistance:

'We were taught about the different types of food and how we can combine them to have a complete diet. We were given flour to make porridge for children, and taught how to prepare it.

'I have realised that it was all ignorance on my part. I advise all the mothers to visit the health centres to receive information about how to feed their children before they become ill.

'Now, my daughter has started primary school, when before she could not even walk.'

Ndikumwenayo Evelyne, 23, and husband Nyandwi Gerald, are like many – they urgently need help:

'When I got married I was in good health, but look how thin I am now. Since I had a baby, who is now a month old, I no longer have any strength because we don’t have anything to eat.

'My husband is the only one working and cannot support our needs. We came here because we were told that we can find help and can be given flour for making porridge.

'Even those who gave my husband a job have no more money, and are becoming poor also.'

Photo: Will Baxter/Tearfund
Hungry Burundians waiting for a food distribution by the Diocese of Matana, which has also been showing mothers how to make a high nutrition flour mix. Photo: Will Baxter/Tearfund

How Tearfund is responding

As well as emergency food aid, Tearfund is working with partners to promote peace and help women affected by sexual violence.

In neighbouring Rwanda, another Tearfund partner has been supporting Burundian refugees, of which there are now more than 250,000.

Please give what you can and support our response to disasters like this

Mark Lang