News / Africa

Congolese Refugees Demand More Food in Burundi

Zack Baddorf

Around the world, the UN's World Food Program, or WFP, provides food to about 90 million people per year, almost two thirds of whom are children. Working in 73 countries this year, the WFP plans to provide about 3.7 million tons of food to those unable to produce or obtain enough food for themselves and their families.

In his hometown in the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mateso Kibinda was heading to work in the fields one morning when he saw several of his neighbors in front of him. They started running after him with machetes. When they caught him, they chopped off his arm. Kibinda says the attackers were jealous of his father's wealth.

He and his wife fled with their children to neighboring Burundi. That was in 1997.

He says his neighbors are still there. They haven't yet moved or gone anywhere. They are there and they are waiting for him. He says if he returns to his country, they will kill him.

Refugees walk down the main street in the Gasorwe Refugee Camp in northern Burundi.
Refugees walk down the main street in the Gasorwe Refugee Camp in northern Burundi.

Today, Kibinda and his family live in the Gasorwe refugee camp in northern Burundi, home to about 10,000 refugees. The vast majority of the 2,000 families living here are from the same war-torn region of the Congo.

Each month, the World Food Program in Burundi provides each refugee with a supply of food: a mix of cereals, beans, corn soya, oil and salt.

Kibinda says the food is not enough.

Kibinda says the food is too little. "Because I'm a refugee," he says, "I don't have anywhere to go for more food. I live here and I don't have any other choice."

32-year-old Kibinda didn't have a job before he came to Burundi and like the other refugees, isn't allowed to work in the refugee camp.

"I don't have any work in the camp," he says. "I'm staying here just because I don't have any place to go and I don't have any abilities to go in another country."

Very little to do

Human Rights Watch reports that refugees are often frustrated by their long-term refugee status and unemployment, leading to high rates of alcoholism, anxiety and depression.

Some male refugees sell part of their food rations to buy locally-produced alcohol. The drinking does, on occasion, lead to domestic abuse of female refugees. With WFP support, the UN's Refugee Agency recently started an outreach program to identify those being abused and protect them. They're also working to find the source of alcohol and shut it down.

The WFP says such a situation is a "recurring theme" in refugee camps where refugees typically have little to do.

War rages on

Like many residents in the camp, Kibinda's wife, Tabou Muamini, is frustrated with her life in limbo.

"The conditions are quite miserable," Muamini says. She says they have to sleep on the floor at night, and during the rainy season, everything is wet.

She said she wished WFP would provide non-food items like shoes, a mat to sleep on, or some clothing for their children.

Like her husband, she doesn't know if or when they will return to their homeland.

She says in the Congo there is a war and the war hasn't finished so they can't return yet. "I will stay here until the war is finished," she says.

Support needed for the youth

So, like the other 20,000 refugees from the Congo living in four refugee camps throughout Burundi, they wait.

And the WFP continues to provide food assistance, nearly 30,000 metric tons last year.

But Mitchell Sendheyabura echoes refugees' complaints that the food allotted for each person at the refugee camps is not enough. The 54-year-old representative of Burundi's National Office for Protection of Refugees and Stateless People says they simply need larger amounts.

He says the amount of food that they receive is not sufficient. All it does is basically help them sustain adults, he says, but they need to support the growth of the children and this is not enough. Some of them are malnourished and need more.

Refugee Concan Gadenato agrees: more food would be better. But, as the refugee representative for the Gasorwe camp, he also wants more variety.

He says they would like a source of protein like sardines and corn beef. "The other thing that we are missing is sugar, he says, "because we add that to the wheat."

Marc Neilson, WFP Burundi's public information officer, says he understands the refugees' concerns but believes the food is "adequate." Each refugee receives a daily ration that WFP says meets nutritional needs. Each person gets 2,100 kilo calories of energy a day, plus a set amount of fat and protein.

Neilson noted that the organization is 100 percent donor funded and that with more money, they can do more to help people in need.

"In the case of Burundi, when you have the majority of the nation who is at risk for under nutrition at any given time and an estimated 40 percent of children who are suffering from some form of malnutrition, there is a lot more we can do.  And it all depends on how many resources we have to use for that.

In August, the Belgian government announced it would donate a million euros to WFP's Burundi program.

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid