WFP/Tala Loubieh
A father holds his infant son, Ibrahim, who was born as a refugee in Kagunga, Tanzania. They are among the thousands of Burundian families escaping the country's ongoing violence.

The Situation

Burundi is emerging from more than a decade of socio-political conflict and faces significant food security and nutrition challenges. Out of 188 countries, Burundi is one of the poorest in the world, ranking 184th in the 2016 human development index. Other critical measures include:

  • Burundi is the 9th worst food security crisis in the world
  • It has the second lowest GDP of any country
  • More than 65 percent of the population lives in poverty and more than 50 percent is chronically food insecure
  • Chronic malnutrition costs the country $102 million dollars every year
  • 56 percent of children are stunted
  • One in three Burundians is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance
  • Only 32 percent of Burundi’s children complete middleschool

A hilly landscape makes the country vulnerable to natural disasters, in particular droughts, floods and mudslides. The high population density contributes to competition over scarce natural resources. As a result of the demand for land, the poorest and most vulnerable populations—mainly women—generally depend on compromised lands and lack the capacity to cope with these severe climate shocks. Domestic food production is insufficient to meet the needs of the population, making the country vulnerable to economic changes and fluctuating agricultural prices. Added drivers of hunger include poor access to clean water, a lack of basic services such as healthcare and education, extreme gender inequality and a high prevalence of infectious diseases.

In 2015, following violent political protests and an attempted overthrow of the existing government, 400,000 Burundians fled their homes to nearby countries, including Rwanda and Tanzania. At the same time, more than 36,000 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have arrived in Burundi seeking safety and food.

World Food Programme's Work

WFP has been present in Burundi since 1968, working to support the local government’s efforts to improve food and nutrition security. WFP works to promote development by:

  • Providing school meals to increase students’ enrollment, attendance and retention rates. WFP also supports government initiatives to develop its own school meals program. Part of this program includes the design and implementation of “homegrown” school meals, which sources food from local small-scale farmers. In turn, homegrown school meals provide income to farmers and help build local economies.
  • Supporting nutrition activities aimed at children under 2, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. WFP also provides specialized nutrition support for people living with HIV on antiretroviral treatment.
  • Establishing community recovery and development activities, with a particular focus on encouraging the participation of women. These activities include establishing village savings and loan associations and widening education on family planning.
  • Investing in small-scale farmers to increase the food security and incomes of poor rural households, particularly those run by women. WFP works to increase access to markets and finance.
  • Providing food and cash assistance during the lean- and post-harvest seasons.

WFP also provides emergency food assistance to Congolese refugees who have escaped to Burundi. Finally, WFP is launching a pilot of the safe access to fuel and energy (SAFE) project. The SAFE program aims to promote sustainable energy and provide income-generating activities. The pilot will support 3,000 households and will progressively scale up to reach 10,000 homes and 150 primary schools.

Articles About Burundi

WFP/Marco Frattini

A Year of Saving and Changing Lives

A look at what 2018 meant for the World Food Programme (WFP) and the millions of people it serves.

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Faces of The Displaced: Introducing Ibrahim

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3 Refugee Crises You Might Not Know About

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Faces of Hope: Ernest in Burundi

Every year, the U.N. World Food Programme delivers lifesaving food assistance to 80 million people across the globe, transforming lives from hunger to hope. Here is one such story. Eighteen-year-old Ernest Ndayikengurukiye was…

M.J. Altman

10 Facts About Conflict & Hunger in Burundi

Today the U.N. Human Rights Chief warned that Burundi is "at a bursting point, on the very cusp of civil war." Since April, more than 220,000 people have fled ongoing…

Katherine Frank

Faces of The Displaced: Estella in Burundi

Every year, the U.N. World Food Programme delivers food assistance to 80 million men, women and children across the globe, lifting families out of poverty and hunger when they need…

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An Influx of Burundian Refugees Flee to Neighboring Countries

Since April nearly 100,000 Burundians have fled political unrest into neighboring Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Protests following a presidential nomination for Burundi's upcoming election, as well as an…

Aliya Karim