The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is providing emergency food assistance in response to the urgent needs of 134,000 people affected by severe food insecurity during the current harvest season in Burundi’s northern province of Kirundo.
With a contribution from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), WFP started providing assistance from Monday to families facing acute food shortages in Busoni, Bugabira and Kirundo communes to ensure that they receive nutritious food for at least one month.
“The scale of the damage caused by the drought in Kirundo is shocking. We are acting now to help affected families and prevent the impact of climate change taking a toll on the most vulnerable people,” said Virginia Villar Arribas, WFP Country Director and Representative in Burundi.
Villar Arribas participated last week in an evaluation mission in three communes in Kirundo with the Governor of Kirundo and the Ministry of Agriculture.
The assessment by the National Platform for the Prevention of Risks and Disaster Management in collaboration with UN agencies and national and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) found that most households in the three communes lost their harvests due to a shortage of rain in the planting season in late 2018.
Families have no access to food and no opportunities for work. Markets are empty or contain a limited amount of high-priced food. As a result, many families are almost unable to have even one meal a day. Some have left Kirundo to search for goods or work in neighbouring provinces.
The situation is likely to deteriorate further during the lean season in April and May because farmers have lost their harvests and have no seeds for the coming planting season.
“I was personally struck and humbled by the attitude of women on the frontlines doing their best to support their families despite hardship,” said Villar Arribas. Many families reported that they had to sell all their assets including livestock, land and homes, resulting in total destitution.
After the assessment, it was recommended emergency food assistances be given to families. Malnourished children under the age of five and pregnant women and nursing mothers will receive supplementary feeding. Drinking water and agricultural support should also be provided and health services reinforced.
In partnership with the Burundi Red Cross, WFP is distributing more than 1,000 metric tons of food – cereals, beans, iodised salt and vegetable oil to cover one month of needs. This complements government assistance provided in January to food insecure families in Kirundo.
In addition, WFP, working with the Ministry of Education and German NGO Welthungerhilfe are providing daily school meals to over 142,000 children in the province. In partnership with the NGO Concern Worldwide, WFP is also supporting the treatment of moderate acute malnutrition and providing highly nutritious food to prevent stunting at health centres.
To ensure continued assistance for four more months from April, WFP requires US$7 million.