WFP and non-governmental organisations warned today that two million people hit by recent floods in Burundi need urgent assistance until June to avert a food crisis.
we do not bring urgent help to the most vulnerable, the consequences could be devastating for the recovery of a country still weakened by 13 years of civil war
Gerard Van Dijk, WFP Country Director in Burundi
This follows last week’s joint appeal for US$132 million by UN agencies and NGOs for their work in Burundi during 2007.
The assessment found increasing use of survival strategies with some people cutting down to one meal a day and resorting to ‘famine foods’, such as cassava leaves or bitter banana.
Mortgages of fields, the sale of assets and people being forced to leave their homes are worrying signs of an impending major food crisis.
The late arrival of rains at the end of last year combined with cassava disease and recent floods have had a devastating effect on the food stocks of the poorest families in Burundi.
“All these elements are signs of a looming food crisis,” said Gerard Van Dijk, WFP Country Director in Burundi. “If we do not bring urgent help to the most vulnerable, the consequences could be devastating for the recovery of a country still weakened by 13 years of civil war.”
Two million people are 25 percent of the country’s entire population.
As part of the UN-NGO joint appeal, WFP urgently needs US$12 million to cover food aid requirements in Burundi until July.
Burundi’s president has declared seven of the country’s 17 provinces as disaster areas because of the damage caused by flooding.
Due to a shortage of food stocks, WFP and its NGO partner, CARE, delivered reduced food rations to 400,000 people, most of them affected by the floods. WFP also had to cut rations by 25 percent for refugees, returnees, Burundians expelled from Tanzania and children in its school feeding programme.
No time to waste
“The floods have hit the country at the worst possible time; although peace prevails, living conditions remain extremely difficult, with most Burundians having to focus on just meeting their basic daily needs,” said Van Dijk.
“Given how long it takes to get food aid and other assistance to Burundi, we have no time to waste; we need international support now in order to help people until June.”
In the most affected areas in the north and centre of the country, the traditional ‘lean season’ (when food from the last harvest runs out) began in September 2006 and will last until the end of June 2007, when the next harvest is due.
Burundi is still emerging from 13 years of civil war that killed more than 300,000 people and displaced more than one million in the region.
WFP’s NGO partners in Burundi as part of the recent UN appeal are: Solidarites, World Vision, CARE, German Agro-Action, Caritas Burundi, International Medical Corps and Catholic Relief Services.