afrol.com, 20 February - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today reiterated its concern over widespread hunger and malnutrition in northern Burundi, where disease and consecutive droughts have affected the health of hundreds of thousands of people.
- While efforts are under way to combat rising malnutrition rates caused by the malaria epidemic and poor harvests, the problem is spreading quickly and more must be done to avoid a potential humanitarian crisis, said Mamadou Mbaye, WFP's Country Director for Burundi. "We most definitely will have to increase the flow of food to Burundi and we will rely on major help from international donors to do this."
WFP said 18,000 people receiving regular food assistance through centres in the province of Karuzi were given additional 15-day emergency food supplies for five family members in late January, covering 90,000 people in total.
WFP has also begun distributing some 5,700 tonnes of seed rations to more than 700,000 people in Burundi, ensuring that the seeds are not eaten in the absence of food, but instead planted to take advantage of the current rainy season. Some 250,000 people will be receiving the rations in Karuzi province alone, the agency said, noting that the next harvest begins in May/June, when it is hoped that many farming households can start to recover from three consecutive droughts.
The food insecurity in northern Burundi is due to the cumulative effects of a string of droughts, a malaria epidemic and an unexpected poor harvest in November caused by heavy rains that destroyed many crops. "In Burundi, there is not just one cause for the malnutrition crisis," said Francesca Erdelmann, WFP's nutritionist for the Great Lakes Region.
- Much of the severe malnutrition has been triggered by malaria hitting a population already weakened by low food intake. Lack of food and disease form a vicious cycle of increased vulnerability."
WFP still requires US$ 98 million against its requested US$ 274 million for its Great Lakes regional operation covering 1.2 million people in Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania until July 2001.