22/06/2012 – The instability in Burundi and the resulting humanitarian crisis necessitated that the European Commission Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection department (ECHO) open an office in Burundi.
After President Cyprien Ntaryamira was killed in 1994, violence erupted and massacres took place across the country. In the same year, the Rwandan genocide began and Burundi received hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighbouring Rwanda.
In 1994 alone, the European Commission gave €55 million towards assisting Burundians affected by the unfolding civil war, and to helping the Rwandan refugees. The assistance needed at the time was food, shelter, clean water, medicine, and sanitation facilities. These life-saving programmes were important then because at that time, Burundi had lost everything as people’s sources of income were completely destroyed.
The European Commission was instrumental in restoring the livelihoods of affected families. Funding from the Commission was used to construct houses for internally displaced people left on the hills without shelter; it helped construct health centres and provide drugs to treat malnourished children. It also provided basic services that enabled the population to get back on their feet again.
The Burundi civil war ended in 2005, bringing the emergency phase to an end. Since 2005, ECHO has maintained some emergency programmes in the areas of protection, food security, health and nutrition. At the same time, the Commission has been bridging the emergency work with development programmes through what is known as Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD).
Now, there is no longer a humanitarian crisis in Burundi. It is time for development actors to take over and implement more long term programmes. That is why in 2012, ECHO is closing its Burundi country office.
During these last months, ECHO has been advocating for LRRD and actively handing over its humanitarian programmes to long-term partners.
One of the biggest achievements of ECHO in Burundi was being able to cover most of the basics needs of the vulnerable population – that is, children under five, pregnant women, refugees and returnees and of being in a position to hand over most of the programmes to long term partners.
There is, however, one sector that has been less well covered, and that is nutrition. This needs further strengthening. Long term donors and long term partners must boost their support to the nutrition sector in the future.
By Alexis Mangona
Burundi’s Programme Assistant for ECHO