By Steinar Sundvoll

I am back from a short rapid assessment mission to Burundi. During this visit I held meetings with government officials and representatives from the international community. Based on these findings and the invitation from the Government of Burundi, Yme has decided to engage itself in Community Development efforts in two selected communities north of Bujumbura, the capital. Yme has filed an application to NORAD for funds in order to conduct a proper assessment during the remaining months of 2000. Focus will be rehabilitation & reconstruction of schools, health centers, water and sanitation. The project will also look at ways and means to bridge a country like Burundi from a being a recipient of emergency aid to more long-term commitments from donors. Local participation will form the core of this project. The political instability in Burundi since the crisis of 1993 has caused a prolonged disruption in both social and economic development of the population. Since 1993 the country has seen many of its social and economic gains regress to the level of at least some 20 years ago.
During the period 1981 – 1990 (The International Decade for Drinking Water and Sanitation), access to potable water in Burundi increased from 30 to 55%, whereas access to sanitation increased to 71% in urban areas and 47% in rural areas.

Due to the prevailing war in Burundi since 1993, these figures have dropped dramatically and today 88% of the population does not have access to the minimum standard of 10 litres of potable water per person per day and 63% did not have access to sanitary facilities.

Presently there are more than 340,000 Burundians who have fled the country to neighbouring countries mainly Tanzania, where they live in refugee camps. An additional 730,000 Burundians live inside Burundi in camps for displaced and experience conditions that are of sub-standard and their survival largely dependent on humanitarian aid. There is increasing optimism that the crisis in Burundi will end in the near future and that conditions conducive to long-term development will be reinstated. The recently held peace negotiations have inspired confidence that a proper peace accord could be reached within this year or early next year.

(Sources: WB Interim Strategy 1999-2001. OCHA Burundi April 2000)