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Burundi unrest: Christian Aid partners prepare to respond

18 May 2015 - Christian Aid partners are preparing to assist civilians caught up in the political unrest in Burundi, which in recent weeks has included violent street demonstrations, the exodus of over 100,000 people and an attempted military coup.

The failed move to overthrow President Pierre Nkurunziza last week followed more than a fortnight of street protests in and around the capital city Bujumbura, held in opposition to the President’s decision to run for a third term in June’s elections.

According to UN figures, some 105,000 people have fled to the neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the wake of the failed coup, the atmosphere remains “volatile”.

Christian Aid partners in Burundi are now assessing the needs on the ground and coordinating their response. They have received funding to work alongside communities to support them to prepare local contingency plans that can be activated in the event of a crisis.

Partners such as the Anglican Church in Burundi are procuring emergency supplies in key locations. Should events escalate, these supplies can be distributed to internally displaced persons (IDPs) or vulnerable groups that may be affected, including women, children and people living with HIV.

Christian Aid Country Manager for Burundi, James Robinson, said: “The situation is very volatile and things are tense in and around Bujumbura particularly. Many people have been staying indoors, not moving because of the threat of gunfire, wondering what will happen next. People are scared to leave their homes.

“Since the demonstrations began life for many Burundians has been paralysed, with local trade, transport and public services all affected. As the protests continue, stocks of goods such as petrol, food, medicine and water are becoming scarce. Any further disruption threatens to leave communities both insecure and without essential items. With the high levels of poverty in the country, it’s the poorest who are the least able to cope.

“Christian Aid has worked in Burundi for many years and our partners are rooted in the communities and are ready to act. They will work with community leaders, health centres and local authorities to develop appropriate and adaptable contingency plans that will reach the most vulnerable in the event of a crisis. The political situation is rapidly evolving, so Christian Aid will be ready to help if things deteriorate. We continue to hope for a peaceful outcome.”

Reports indicate that over 20 have died and some 200 injured in demonstrations against the President’s decision to stand in the June 26 polls. His opponents say his candidacy flouts both the national constitution and the Arusha peace deal that ended Burundi’s 12-year civil war a decade ago, which killed an estimated 300,000 people.

The UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, has appealed for calm and is taking steps to address the growing refugee situation in Burundi’s neighbouring nations. Of the 105,000 people who have fled the political violence, over 70,000 are in Tanzania, approximately 26,000 are in Rwanda and some 9,000 are in the DRC.

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.) To find out more about Christian Aid’s work in Burundi, visit www.christianaid.org.uk/burundi

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 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 the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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