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The ICRC in Burundi

29-10-2010 Overview

In Burundi the ICRC rehabilitates water and sanitation systems for vulnerable groups, restores family links and reunites families separated by conflict. It also works with prison authorities to ensure that detainees are treated according to internationally recognized standards and supports training in international humanitarian law for the armed forces.

Ever since it gained independence in 1962, Burundi has been plagued by a succession of violent socio-political crises. The ICRC started visiting detainees in the country in 1963 and has had a permanent representation since 1992, focusing on helping people to overcome the worst consequences of armed conflict.

The ICRC works in close collaboration with the Burundi Red Cross, particularly in emergencies.

Burundi continues to host tens of thousands of refugees from the wider region, including thousands of Congolese who face difficulties in re-establishing and maintaining contact with relatives in their country of origin. Meanwhile, the majority of the thousands of Burundian refugees from the 1972 and 1993 crises have now returned home, a process accelerated by the closure of refugee camps in Tanzania.
The security situation is compounded by the large number of weapons in circulation and a relatively high crime rate. The country also continues to suffer from poverty and underdevelopment, with tensions over access to land fuelled by rapid population growth and the return of former refugees.

With the Burundi Red Cross, the ICRC provides tracing and Red Cross message services to help separated family members, including Burundian returnees and Congolese refugees, restore and maintain contact. Reuniting unaccompanied children with their families is a priority.

Almost half of Burundi’s population lacks access to safe drinking water as water
systems are dilapidated after many years of neglect or have been destroyed in past violence. The ICRC works with the authorities, training local communities and water board staff, to ensure that rehabilitated water supply facilities are maintained and able to provide thousands of people with safe water.

To improve services for disabled people, the ICRC supports the Saint Kizito physical rehabilitation centre in Bujumbura, which caters mainly for people living in provinces bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ICRC helps to improve the services offered by the centre by supporting the introduction of new prosthetic and orthotic techniques.

Detainees in places of permanent and temporary detention receive regular visits from ICRC delegates, who monitor their treatment and living conditions and, where necessary, make confidential representations to the authorities. The ICRC also provides material and technical support to the prison authorities in delivering basic health-care services, improving hygiene conditions and renovating basic infrastructure.

The ICRC fosters dialogue with the defence forces with a view to establishing instruction in international humanitarian law (IHL) in all ranks and also supports the teaching of IHL in universities.