Burundi today

The Village Imuhira project has been set up about 40 miles northeast of the capital Bujumbura, near the eastern edge of the province of Muramvya, on Rurenda Hill in the district of Rutegama. This is a densely populated region with a poor infrastructure. As the majority of aid organisations in Burundi are based in Bujumbura, outlying rural areas are often overlooked.

The country

One of the smallest countries in Africa, the Republic of Burundi is located just south of the equator in east-central Africa along the northern shores of Lake Tanganyika. It is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west. The whole of Burundi lies on a hilly plateau, with an average elevation of 5,600 feet. This accounts for the country’s moderate temperatures.
Despite its natural resources – which include nickel, uranium, cobalt, copper, platinum, gold, tin, limestone, arable land, and hydropower – Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world: 167th out of 177 on the United Nations Human Development Index. Approximately half of the population live below the poverty line, and nearly 88% earn less than $2 per day.

The people

Burundi is also one of the world’s most densely populated lands: an estimated 8.5 million people live on just 10,745 square miles – an area smaller than Belgium!

Approximately 85% of the population are of Hutu ethnicity, while 14% are Tutsi and 1% Twa (or Pygmy). Kirundi, the official language, is spoken by nearly everyone, but French is widely used in official circles, in education and in the business sector.
The Hutus and Tutsis settled in the areas that are now Burundi and Rwanda in the 14th and 15th centuries. Known as Urundi under German and then Belgian rule, Burundi gained independence in 1962 and became a republic four years later. In 1993, thirty years of political instability culminated in a vicious civil war lasting more than a decade.

The aftermath of civil war

As hostilities gradually died down, democratic elections were held in 2005, giving hope of reconstruction and lasting peace. But the war left a very heavy toll: 300,000 people died, a million were displaced and 600,000 children were made orphans. The country was plunged into economic ruin and a serious humanitarian crisis: Burundi suffers a high rate of infant mortality and death in childbirth; lack of food among children often causes stunted growth; chronic malnutrition leaves 70% of the population exposed to disease; and HIV-AIDS is destroying whole sections of the population, especially in rural areas, leaving another 100,000 orphans.

The democratically elected government has so far reacted positively. Child education, seen as the key to the country’s recovery, has been made compulsory and free. Nearly three-quarters of children have enrolled in school, but only 7% attend secondary school. At present, infrastructures are woefully inadequate: most schools lack safe sanitation facilities; 100 children are often massed together in a classroom designed for 50; four pupils have to share one desk…

Principal source: World Vision

Dutch, French

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