The epidemiological situation in Burundi has remained a focus throughout 2020 with episodes of cholera, a relatively high incidence of malaria and measles cases. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the country in March and while trends have been relatively low, a worrying increase in the number of cases has been reported at the end of the year.
The number of internal displacements increased for the first time since 2018 as a result of the floods that severely hit the country in the first half of the year, further causing human and material damages to those affected.
UNICEF and its partners have provided a multidisciplinary response to the 25,000 people in temporary displacement sites and have continued to support the Ministry of Health (MOH) in responding to health emergencies.
More than 44,000 children received treatment for severe acute malnutrition, 227,000 were provided with critical protection services and 136,681 were reached with hygiene messages.
UNICEF has mobilized 60 per cent of the 2020 Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) funding to address the most essential needs of children and women in Burundi.
Funding Overview and Partnerships
UNICEF’s appeal for Burundi stands at US$ 16.5 million to sustain the provision of life-saving services for women and children affected by humanitarian crises, for which 60 per cent has been mobilised as of 31 December 2020.
Through the support provided by the Governments of Japan and of the United Kingdom, WASH and health teams have been able to deploy emergency response to the cholera and malaria epidemics. The US Fund for UNICEF and the German National committee for UNICEF have responded to the urgent appeal for assistance in January for those affected by the heavy rains and floods in Bujumbura and other provinces. The contribution of the German Government during the third quarter complemented these efforts with respect to displaced persons at risk of COVID-19. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) renewed its support for the fight against child malnutrition (through Food For Peace) and together with the UK extended assistance to prepare for the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic in the format of a consortium with other UN sister agencies with UNICEF designated as the lead agency. Thanks to the financial contribution of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), one of UNICEF's key humanitarian partners in Burundi and the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), UNICEF has been able to provide multidisciplinary assistance in response to urgent crises affecting children and their families. ECHO supported the birth registration campaign for undocumented children in provinces registering high number of returnees. Finally, in December, the Government of Korea provided its support to better respond to emergencies and to prepare the education sector to deal with emergencies affecting children in Burundi.
One of the most underfunded sectors in 2020 is the WASH sector, even though it is an essential component of the response to the crises Burundi is facing, particularly when it comes to assistance to people affected and at risk of epidemics and natural disasters. This low level of resource mobilization has impacted the capacity of UNICEF to respond sufficiently to flooding and public health emergencies through the promotion of hygiene and access to safe drinking water. With the increase of COVID-19 cases in Burundi, hygiene promotion will be even more important in 2021 and will lead – even beyond COVID-19 –to children growing up much healthier. UNICEF is counting on its partners to substantially support this critical area in 2021.
UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to all public and private donors for the contributions received this year as well as in 2019 and carried forward in 2020, despite the challenging context due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Much effort will have to be maintained in 2021 on many fronts and UNICEF is counting on its partners to continue providing the necessary assistance and services to Burundi's children and their families in order to meet the many challenges ahead.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The year 2020 began with episodes of heavy rain, wind and landslides that were repeated throughout the first half of the year and caused considerable material and human damage. UNICEF and its partners were present from the first days to respond to the most urgent needs to approximately 100,000 people affected but also to support the recovery phase.
While cholera and malaria diseases persisted in the country, efforts were deployed to prevent the risk of Ebola spillover from the Democratic Republic of Congo before the epidemic was declared over. The COVID-19 pandemic hit Burundi on March 31, 2020. A mass testing campaign was organized from July to October. Despite relatively low trend of cases, an increase has been observed at the end of 2020 bringing the total of cases to 882 out of 85,431 people tested and two deaths as of December 31st. A response plan was developed by the MoH, together with partners in March. The public health emergency operation centre was made operational in September making it possible to strengthen the coordination of response services.
Finally, since the May 2020 elections, the expected gradual return of Burundians, including those who had found refuge in Tanzania and Rwanda, was confirmed with the arrival of 34,347 returnees during the second semester. A tripartite agreement was signed in August between Burundi, Rwanda and UNHCR to organize the process of voluntary repatriation. Since that date, almost 8,000 Burundians have been able to return from Rwanda. The process with the Democratic Republic of Conge has also resumed in September.