Shortly after holding its first democratic election in 1993, Burundi erupted in a long-running civil war that left an estimated 300,000 people dead – most of them civilians – and several hundred thousand displaced. A peace agreement was reached between the government and rebel factions in late 2002, yet the process of rebuilding the country’s infrastructure is still underway.
The conflict crippled Burundi’s social services and destabilised the health care system. Forced from their land, farmers could not plant grain, causing food shortages and ultimately, malnutrition. Many internally displaced live in squalid camps where disease is rampant, clean water is unavailable, and shelter is makeshift. Burundi now faces the formidable task of reviving its shattered economy and helping its people get back on their feet.
International Medical Corps has worked in Burundi since 1995 and today administers programmes across the country, including primary health care services, prevention of sexual and gender-based violence and a variety of nutrition interventions.
In conjunction with our treatment programmes, we also focus on keeping children under the age of two healthy by training mothers and then sending them into the broader community to teach healthy nutrition practices to their peers. The Mother Care Group approach, which employs local women, is especially effective because it focuses on behaviour change and peer-to-peer communication aimed at stopping malnutrition before it takes hold.