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Christian Aid gives urgent relief to families displaced by Burundi's political unrest

July 21 2015 - Christian Aid is continuing to provide relief to Burundians affected by political turmoil, economic pressures and instances of violence triggered by the country’s disputed presidential polls, taking place today.

Weeks of instability in Burundi have left tens of thousands of people displaced, having fled their homes – particularly within the capital Bujumbura – to other parts of the country or to neighbouring nations.

Christian Aid is concerned by the critical situation facing many citizens, who urgently need food, healthcare and economic support. Our local partners in Burundi have been distributing supplies to internally displaced people. Christian Aid is also providing relief to Burundians who have sought refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Stocks of essential materials are now in place in 10 key communities across Burundi, following a Christian Aid rapid response project. These supplies include 1,500 mosquito nets, 1,500 blankets, 1,500 items of women’s clothing, 3,000 sets of kitchen utensils, 2,000 female hygiene kits and stores of medicines such as anti-retroviral treatment.

With support from a Christian Aid partner, the Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi, communities have distributed emergency kits to over 450 affected households. The distributions have targeted displaced people, host families struggling to cope with overcrowding, and other vulnerable individuals such as women, children and people living with disabilities or with HIV.

Christian Aid Country Manager for Burundi, James Robinson, based in Bujumbura, said: “The election has presented a critical moment: there is a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds. The ongoing crisis has affected every aspect of life and this insecurity is having a particularly negative impact on the most vulnerable groups.

“The economy has been hit badly. Many businesses appear to be closed and there is uncertainty as to whether they will re-open. The majority of families who have relocated have lost their means of earning an income – particularly those who relied on farming or small businesses. Many of these displaced people have used all of their savings and are now struggling to pay for food and medicine.”

Christian Aid partners have reported that the movement of people is affecting access to medical care in Burundi, including for individuals living with HIV. Some health centres are seeing an increase in demand and in the spread of diseases. Christian Aid has supported three health centres to increase their stocks to try and meet this need.

Since the unrest began, some 165,000 Burundians have moved to neighbouring countries to escape the violence. Over 13,000 of these are currently in the eastern DRC, with the majority living temporarily in local communities. Christian Aid partners in DRC are supplying hygiene kits and food assistance to 1,600 households, both refugees and host families. They are also providing nutritional supplements to vulnerable individuals, including 500 children under the age of five.

James Robinson said: “Those who have been displaced in Burundi are often living with the poorest members of society in cramped and inadequate conditions: this is having a knock-on effect on host families and communities, whose resources are stretched. Nevertheless we have seen inspiring examples of communities pulling together and assisting each other in difficult financial situations.” 

The unrest in Burundi began at the end of April, following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement that he would run for a third term in office: a move that sparked widespread demonstrations on the streets of Bujumbura. Since that time, the country has seen a rise in the use of violence on both sides.

“The mass protests and clashes witnessed in Burundi two months ago have recently been replaced by an increase in sporadic violence,” said James Robinson. “We are concerned about the growing number of small arms: gunshots and grenade explosions have been regular sounds in the evenings. During this period of instability, Christian Aid and our partners will continue to do what we can to help where the need is greatest.”

Christian Aid’s relief work in Burundi and DRC has been financed by the Start Fund. The fund is administered by the Start Network: a consortium of 24 leading NGOs, including Christian Aid, working together to strengthen the humanitarian aid system with rapid support where necessary. The network was launched in 2014 with contributions from the UK Department for International Development and Irish Aid.

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If you would like further information, please contact Tomi Ajayi on 020 7523 2427 or tajayi@christian-aid.org. (24-hour press duty phone: 07850 242950.)

Notes to Editors:
1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.
2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.
3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development.
4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter.
5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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