Analysis of the context, crisis and needs
The combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as climate-related shocks have exacerbated humanitarian needs in Burundi. 2020 was characterized by above-average rainfall in parts of the country, leading to flooding, displacement of people and destruction of harvests. The socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 have also increased the population’s level of pre-existing vulnerabilities, reversing the downward trend in humanitarian needs observed since late 2018. At the same time, due to the seasonality of cholera and mass distribution of mosquito nets, the number of cholera and malaria cases has reduced significantly during 2020 while measles cases have increased.
Burundi is among the 20 most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. In late 2019, rising temperatures of the Indian Ocean contributed to an increase in the number and scale of natural disasters in the country. Between October 2019 and October 2020, floods, landslides and other disasters affected 13 of Burundi's 18 provinces. The disasters have also contributed to a 23 per cent increase of IDPs, up from 104,000 in late 2019 to 127,832 in September 2020. Natural disasters account for 83 per cent of internal displacement in Burundi. The effects of climate hazards also continue to impact agricultural production in a context where 90 per cent of the population rely on subsistence farming.
The Government has made important efforts to strengthen its capacity in Disaster Risk Reduction, however the pre-existing chronic vulnerabilities, including the fragile economic situation, have impacted its capacity to prepare for and respond to climate-related hazards. Ranked 185 out of 189 on the Human Development Index, Burundi has experienced negative GDP growth over the past five years. The Government has mobilized domestic resources to offset fiscal and balance-of-payments difficulties, but this has been insufficient to meet the continuously rising social demand driven by a high population growth.
Following the newly elected President’s appeal for Burundian refugees to return to the country, the voluntary return of refugees facilitated by UNHCR has increased in recent months. While the number of returnees was relatively limited in 2019 and during the first half of 2020, a considerable increase was noted in the second half of 2020. As a result, 21,769 out of the 28,198 returnees since the beginning of the year were registered between July and 7 November 2020. In addition, the situation of the 78,000 refugees and asylum seekers remains precarious. Nearly 50 per cent of the refugees live in urban areas where the economic situation is fragile while assistance is limited to specific protection cases. For refugees living in camps, there are few job opportunities, resulting in a high dependency on humanitarian assistance.
Between January and June 2020, 370,000 (or 42 per cent) of the 887,000 people targeted by the revised HRP were assisted by humanitarian actors, particularly through food and livelihood support and provision of services, including protection and nutrition. Despite these achievements, the low level of funding continues to hamper humanitarian partners’ efforts to meet the needs of the affected people. The most underfunded sectors include shelter and non-food items, education, WASH, protection, and the multisectoral repatriation response.
Projected situation in 2021 and beyond
The socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 and the prevalence of climate-related hazards are expected to continue to contribute to the humanitarian situation in Burundi throughout 2021. This is likely to aggravate pre-existing vulnerabilities. While most of 2020 was characterized by above-average rainfall, the last quarter of the year is expected to be marked by below-average rainfall in half of Burundi, particularly in the eastern and northern parts. According to projections, the lack of rainfall is expected to impact the first cropping season of 2021 and the availability of seeds for future seasons. Combined with the loss of economic opportunities due to decreased cross-border trade following the COVID-19 pandemic, this is expected to increase the number of food insecure people, in IPC phases 3 and 4 from 1.3 million people in October 2020 to 1.9 million people in January 2021.
While average rainfall is expected in the western provinces during the last quarter of 2020 and beginning of 2021, further rain, albeit at normal levels, could lead to further flooding due to saturating groundwater levels in areas affected by the 2020 floods. This could lead to further displacement, heighten the risk of diseases with epidemic potential, such as malaria and/or cholera, and impact crops along Lake Tanganyika. The return of Burundian refugees is expected to intensify in 2021 with 143,000 planned returns (compared to 50,000 in 2020), particularly in Burundi’s eastern and northern provinces. This is also expected to place additional burden on the already vulnerable host communities. Moreover, insufficient donor interest in funding protracted refugee situations could heighten the vulnerability of Congolese refugees in Burundi, particularly those living in camps, where ageing infrastructure needs substantial repair.
Response priorities in 2021
For $196 million, the Burundi HRP 2021 will target 1.04 million people out of an estimated 2.3 million people who need humanitarian assistance. The response will prioritize the most vulnerable populations, particularly returnees, victims of natural disasters including IDPs, and those affected by/at risk of epidemics as well as food insecurity and malnutrition. The priority areas of intervention will include provinces classified at severity level 4 (Cankuzo, Kirundo and Ruyigi) and at severity level 3 (Ngozi, Cibitoke, Bubanza, Kayanza, Bujumbura, Rumonge, Makamba, Rutana, Gitega, Karuzi, Muyinga), as identified during the intersectoral severity analysis.
- According to the ND-GAIN Country Index, Vulnerability and Readiness.
- Provisional figure. Consultations with the Government are ongoing.