Last Updated: Friday, 21 November 2014, 13:47 GMT

Burundi: Thousands flee food crisis in north

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 15 January 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Burundi: Thousands flee food crisis in north, 15 January 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/497051038.html [accessed 22 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BUJUMBURA, 15 January 2009 (IRIN) - The food crisis looming in the northern province of Kirundo has prompted more than 1,000 families to flee their homes in search of food in neighbouring countries, officials say.

The governor of Kirundo, Juvenal Muvunyi, told IRIN on 15 January that 1,375 families had fled to neighbouring Rwanda or Tanzania in search of food. "In Busoni, 307 families have fled their homes in Gatare, 167 in Gisenyi zone, 15 in Nyagisozi, three in Murore and 17 in Mukerwa," Muvunyi said.

Other communes of Kirundo affected by the food crisis include Bugabira, where 340 families were registered and to a lesser extent Gitobe, with 276, and 250 in Kirundo commune.

Kirundo province, once considered Burundi's food basket, is facing recurrent food shortages because of poor rains. "The problem lies in the consistency of the soil. If there is no rain for only two weeks, the soil is completely dry and the harvest lost," Muvunyi said.

Pierre Sinzobatohana, general manager in charge of mobilisation for self-reliance and agricultural popularisation in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, said the first rains started falling in Busoni, Bugabira and parts of Kirundo commune only on 12 December when the rainy season normally begins in September.

"In response to reports of a food crisis affecting the Bugesera region, notably at Kirundo, the World Food Programme [WFP] sent a mission last week for a first emergency assessment of the food needs at Kirundo," Rickie-Nelly Ndagano, public information officer at WFP in Bujumbura, said.

"The first emergency relief aid will be distributed throughout next week to a targeted group of 16,400 households, approximately 90,000 persons," she added.

Another joint mission comprising WFP, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is in Kirundo to devise a short- and long-term response to the recurring food crisis in the region.

The provincial administration officials are also planning to distribute beans and maize flour contributed by the government. Muvunyi appealed to the population to stay put as the situation was not as alarming as in 2003.

Sinzobatohana said: "All the partners to the ministry of agriculture should encourage residents of Kirundo to start digging and prepare for the next planting season."

Shortages in the east

Food shortages were also reported in the eastern Ruyigi province, with the local media saying some 8,000 people had fled to Tanzania in search of food. However, local administration officials played down the food crisis, saying only dozens of people were leaving the province to seek jobs in Tanzania.

Pontien Hatungimana, a Ruyigi official, admitted however that poor rainfall in some areas and heavy rains in others had resulted in a poor yield. Hatungimana said 34 percent of the population in Kinyinya commune, estimated at 12,000 households, were affected by the food shortage. "All the crops of beans and maize were completely lost," he said.

However, he stressed there was cause for hope as the peanut and maize crops were on the verge of being harvested. He appealed to humanitarian agencies to supply seeds to the Ruyigi population to prepare for the next planting season.

jb/mw


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