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Burundi Introduces Famine Tax to Ease Country's Hunger Victims

The government in Burundi has approved a so-called national solidarity tax on salaries to help victims of famine in the country's northeast.

Under the temporary measure, government ministers and lawmakers will pay eight percent of their salaries to help up to one million hungry drought victims in the provinces of Muyinga and Kirundo.

Civil servants with wages higher than $90 per month will pay two percent of their salaries, as will private employees and businessmen. The unemployed are also being asked to contribute - for them, a one-time amount of about 10 cents.

Burundians have been shocked by television images showing residents in the northeast eating leaves and roots to survive.

The government says nearly 100 people have died of hunger in the past two months in areas where crops have been failing due to poor rains. The main production of cassava has also dropped because of the mosaic disease.

Burundi's main labor union has reacted angrily to the new tax, saying the government may end up diverting the money for other purposes. It says citizens should be free to decide their contribution.

Journalists in Burundi say some civilians seem to be complaining about the new tax as well, but not very many.