In close partnership with the Government of Burundi and other key actors, IOM seeks to ensure that humanitarian needs are met and progress is made towards the resolution of displacement due to natural disasters and reintegration for returnees while building resilience towards future shocks and stressors. IOM Burundi envisions to expand its current program portfolio to adapt to the varying dynamics and issues that the country faces.
Burundi is located in an earthquake-prone zone in the Great Lakes Region and is often affected by extreme weather and catastrophic natural events. Despite the slight economic growth of the last two years, Burundi’s climate-related events, combined with a decline in the socio-political and security situation since 2015, have resulted in mass displacement within the country. The total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burundi is 104,191 of which 79 per cent are displaced due to natural hazards. In general, the humanitarian situation of IDPs continues to deteriorate, requiring critical humanitarian assistance, and needs to be complemented by early efforts to transition to development-orientated interventions.
Following the signing of a tripartite agreement between the Government of Burundi, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and UNHCR to continue to support voluntary repatriation, an estimated 116,000 Burundians are expected to return in 2019 and 2020. The reintegration of tens of thousands of people presents challenges typical of large-scale returns as vulnerability abounds and resources are scarce. This has the potential to lead to social tensions, acting as a driver for resource scarcity (land for agriculture, food, shelter and public spaces), unlawful occupations, gender-based violence (GBV), and banditry.
Such challenges also increase the overall health vulnerability of communities that face considerable strain directly as a consequence of displacements but also when absorbing high numbers of IDPs or returnees. The risk of an upsurge in water-borne diseases and vectorborne disease is common during such times (cholera, malaria). Due to its proximity to the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi has become the highest priority level for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) operational readiness and preparedness. Burundi and the DRC share porous borders, coupled with high volumes of cross-border movement of goods and people, mainly traders, refugees and travellers. Furthermore, situations that cause distress, such as displacement and returns, may lead to a range of direct and indirect mental health sequelae including despair, lack of access to basic needs and social support, or even loss of loved ones in some extreme cases. Subsequently, psychological consequences may manifest in diverse ways impacting not only on the individual but also extending to the wider community.
Needs assessments have clearly shown that the most vulnerable returnees, mainly women single-headed households (constituting two-thirds of returnees) and children, urgently require adequate emergency shelter, healthcare, food, water and hygiene, as well as improved nutrition.