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Floods Cause Food Crisis in Burundi

The World Food Program says heavy flooding in Burundi has made thousands of people homeless and destroyed most of the food crop they were counting on for their subsistence. WFP warns Burundi could have a serious food crisis unless the international community responds quickly to emergency needs. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

Seven of Burundi's provinces are heavily hit by severe flooding, including an area around the capital Bujumbura. The World Food Program reports several people have been killed, hundreds of houses destroyed and, at least, 23,000 made homeless.

WFP Spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume, says these floods could not have come at a worse time. She says people were just starting to rebuild their lives after emerging from 13 years of civil war.

"The situation is already so precarious and so fragile that it is really putting at risk the people that already do not have enough to eat. For them, you know, getting their daily food is a challenge," she said.

WFP, the U.N. Office of Humanitarian Affairs and the Food and Agriculture Program recently did an evaluation of the food situation in Burundi.

Berthiaume says the study shows that the lack of food in large parts of the country is so great many people are eating only one meal a day. In some cases, she says, they can only afford to eat one meal every other day.

She says many people in Burundi already are suffering from malnutrition. She fears the situation will only get worse.

"According again to this survey, it looks like between 50 and 80 percent of the normal food production will be lost because of those floods," she said. "So, all these are factors that really could announce a serious food crisis if we do not react quickly."

Berthiaume says the World Food Program has begun distributing food to some 400,000 needy people. But, she says the agency is short of cash and needs $12 million to continue its humanitarian operation until July.