Children in Burundi

Children in Burundi

Life for children in Burundi is harsh. A 12-year ethnic war shattered the social, infrastructure and already under performing economy of the country where today more than 70% of the population live in poverty with, in 2019, 86% of the population living in rural areas. Children in Burundi are normally born at home and the mother is usually helped by other women and, when available, a midwife. Those children who survive childbirth are presented to their family's six days later in a ceremony known as "Ujusohor" and, when a year old once their survival is more likely, they are named usually by their paternal grandfather in the "Kuvamukiriri" ceremony when they are given their tribal name as well as a proper name and often a few nicknames. In a country where children are highly valued, the history of the country has seriously impaired those children's futures. In 2018, secondary school enrollment was reported at 27.52 % falling to as low as 8% in some rural areas due to a lack of qualified teachers and adequate supplies although today school enrollment is on the rise at all levels of education.

Poverty and malnutrition are also rife with 52% of children under five years of age stunted with even higher levels of malnutrition among rural communities as a result of a poor or inadequate diet. This is partly because the staple diet for children in Burundi consists of fruit and vegetables together with beans, corn and millet. Children's diets in general consist of less than 2% meat resulting in protein deficiency although those children living around Lake Tanganyika have fish as a major part of their food intake. As is happening across much of Africa, child mortality rates are falling in Burundi from 248.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1970 to 56.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2019 (compared with 4 in the Uk for 2019.) Children often die from malaria, diarrhoea, and pneumonia not least because of a lack of access to safe water and sanitation. Many who are born alive are already infected with HIV/AIDS and there are an estimated 230,000 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in the country representing 30% of all orphans. Of these, just a few thousand live in official orphanages, the rest living on the streets or land, as head of child households with a small group of these children living with families other than their own.

Children in Burundi

Living outside an orphanage significantly reduces these children's willingness and ability to attend school or receive appropriate health care because officially they don't exist and if they don't exist no-one notices or even cares if they disappear. The future for these orphans is equally bleak as they are unlikely to reintegrate into mainstream society as while some education in Burundi is free, books and uniforms are not and children fending for themselves simply do not have the resources to attend school in a country where there are already high levels of illiteracy and non school engagement. Being an orphan also increases the likelihood of them having to engage in labour suited for adults only and, of course, places them at risk of exploitation with an estimated 3,000 of them living rough on the streets. UNICEF carried out a survey of some of these children and found 93% of them showed clinical signs of behavioural problems. Many of these orphans go on to become 'former street children'; a term used once the child has reached adulthood where they may remain on the streets, often with addiction problems, unable to find work or establish normal relationships.

There have been long running concerns about the lack of any juvenile justice system for children in Burundi. Children aged over 15yrs are treated as adults whilst, officially at least, prison is not an option for those under fifteen. However many Burundi children born during the civil war don't have birth certificates so cannot prove their age, so often find themselves incarcerated with older men in adult prisons where they are risk. Some of these children find themselves locked up in prisons for months or many years with no access to legal advice nor any advocacy. In Mpimba prison, it is reported that 100 boys were sleeping in one cell; some held in prison for minor crimes like stealing bags of rice. Although exact figures are not known it is estimated that there are 400 children in prisons across Burundi with many more in police cells.

Burundi Children

"My problem here is that I feel very alone. I am lonely all the time. I come from far away; no one visits me. It has been a year since I have seen someone I know" one 14 year old commented whilst another 14yr old accused of theft reported "Sleeping is very hard, as there are about 27 of us in the one room. Some of us have to sit up all night. There are no separate showers and toilets for us, the children. It’s bad for the kids when the adults are in the bathrooms. I check to see who is in there before going to shower." With the civil war now fading into the past, there was hope for Burundi's future and that of its children, however then President Pierre Nkurunziza's (now deceased) attempt to remain in office against the consitution sparked a new wave of violence in 2015 with the Human Rights Council holding ongoing investigations into abuses in the country. The situation in Burundi has been comopunded by the enforced return of refugees who had been living in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo. Many stated they had no choice to return after Tanzanian authorities banned them from trading inside the their camps and aid agencies struggles to provide more than one meal a day. They just had no home, communities nor infrastructure to support them when they did. The projects and programs below help children in Burundi and you can help further when you sponsor a child in Burundi.

Children in Burundi: Restoration of Hope (RoH)

Burundi Children: Restoration of Hope (RoH)

Restoration of Hope (RoH) is a not-for-profit association established to help the street children of Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi and other vulnerable young people from poverty stricken families.

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Children in Burundi: Wings of Hope

Burundi Children: Wings of Hope

Wings of Hope provides access to education for children in one of Burundi's poorest neighbourhoods, Buterere, located in the country's capital of Bujumbura. This is a community where families struggle to survive and meet the most basic needs, and many children must earn a living as well to support their familie such as fetching water or selling goods at the market. The project pays for school fees, allowing parents to send their children through this higher level of learning, without the financial burden.

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Children in Burundi: Sponsor Children in Burundi

Child Sponsor Burundi

Details of how to sponsor children in Burundi with Burundi child sponsor organisations, charities, programs and projects.

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Children in Burundi: Volunteer in Burundi

Volunteer in Burundi

As well as sponsoring a child why not explore volunteering opportunities in Burundi?

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Children in Burundi: Burundi Country Profile

African Country Profiles: Burundi

In another of our African country profiles, find out all about Burundi in a series of information articles, latest daily news, videos, and images together with volunteering and child sponsorship opportunities.

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