9 February 2017

Burundi: Famine Continues Taking People's Lives in Bubanza, Residents Say

Residents of some localities of Gihanga district claim people continue dying from famine. Humanitarian actors have not so far given sufficient help since the first cases of death were reported in January.

As no adequate assistance has been provided, reports of hunger-caused deaths still emerge in Bubanza province that has been plagued by famine due to drought and pest insects over the last several weeks.

Local residents still say people especially the elderly and women (including pregnant ones) continue dying from complications partly due to starvation.

Joseph Rwasa, a resident of Gihanga rural district says "we are always burying people dying from starvation". He mentions a recent case of a woman whose twins died just after birth.

Since widespread famine started being reported in Bubanza province from last January, relief operations have so far remained inadequate.

Even the food the World Food Programme (WFP) started distributing on 8 February proves to be insufficient as it is limited to the selected few who are thought to be the most vulnerable according to WFP and the local administration.

Local administrators of Gihanga rural district of Bubanza Province say the assistance should be increased to reach all residents because all are in need of help.

"Everyone needs help here. We are all affected by famine since no single cultivated field has been spared by drought and insect pests", says Bucumi Jean Bosco, a local administrative official of Gihungwe locality in Cibitoke district.

Michel Matoroshi, another local administrative official of Rumotomoto locality of the same district, says "food assistance should include all residents because we are all vulnerable".

As the organisation started distributing foodstuffs composed of some quantity of maize, beans, oil and salt, Head of WFP Emergency Operations , Libérat Ntibarake, said the organisation does not have enough foodstuffs in stock to assist all the people in need.

"We have food for only 3000 households. Others have to be patient till we get new stocks", he said.

Famine has struck Bubanza and other provinces of Burundi over the past several weeks. At the beginning of January 2017, reports said people had started dying from starvation in some localities of Gihanga district.

The Governor of Bubanza, a western province of Burundi, sounded the alarm that over 3000 households were starving.

Famine was caused by drought that dominated the last growing season starting from September 2016. The situation was worsened by pest insects that damaged crops that had, more or less, resisted climatic variations.

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