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Burundi is ranked 167 out of 177 countries in the 2008 Human Development Index (based on 2005 data), and its infant and maternal mortality rates are among the worst in Africa. Though government increased funding for free basic education, challenges remain in terms of quality of education and rising drop-out rates as a result of household hunger. Poor funding of the health sector threatens the free delivery services for pregnant women and free medical care for children under five years of age that were declared by the government in 2006.
Issues facing children in Burundi
- Due to Burundi’s civil war, poverty increased from 48 to 67 per cent of the population between 1994 and 2006. Rising food prices (including a 28 per cent increase in 2007-08) affect families’ livelihood and increase vulnerability to repetitive threats such as flooding, droughts, landslides and the impact of climate change.
- Malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and the compounding effects of malnutrition are the main causes of mortality and morbidity among children. In 2005, up to 53 per cent of children under five suffered from stunting due to inadequate food, low-quality diet, poor infant feeding practices, poor household management of childhood diseases and the general decline of the health system.
- Maternal mortality is high, due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as too early and too frequent pregnancies. Over 50 per cent of women deliver at home without the assistance of a qualified professional. By the end of 2007,the rate of deliveries assisted by skilled attendants was just 41.1 per cent.
- 41 babies out of every 1,000 live births die in the first four weeks of birth – about 16,000 child deaths per year.
- Only 64 per cent of the population has access to potable drinking water, while just 32 per cent use adequate sanitation facilities. An estimated 88 per cent of deaths from diarrhoea are attributed to poor hygiene practices, unsafe drinking-water supplies and inadequate access to sanitation.
- Serious protection issues include rising sexual and gender-based violence against children and women, exploitation and abuse of street children, child labour, children associated with armed groups, children in prison and the situation of orphans and vulnerable children.
- As of September 2008, more than 470,000 Burundians had been repatriated from Tanzania since 2002, with the highest number – over 91,000 – in 2008 alone. These returnees cause added pressures on inadequate social services and infrastructure, such as health, education and water; tensions with host communities are the result. An estimated 387,000 school age children are among these returnees, who must learn new languages and be reintegrated into schools.
Activities and results for children
- The government has adopted a new Penal Code with provisions for child protection and has also abolished payment of birth registration fees for children under five.
- Immunization coverage of eight antigens increased from 72 to 94 per cent of young children, and vitamin A supplementation from 38 to 96 per cent, between 2000 and 2007.
- Initial antenatal visits increased from 78 to 98 per cent between 2000 and 2007, while birth assistance similarly increased from 25 to 41 per cent.
- UNICEF-supported twice-yearly Mother-and-Child Health Weeks ensured immunization of 143,587 children in 2008. In addition, 4. 2 million children aged 1-14 years and 107,940 pregnant women received de-worming tablets.
- UNICEF also distributed 245,000 insecticide-treated nets for children under five and pregnant women for malaria prevention; increased access to therapeutic nutritional treatment for 144,000 malnourished children; trained 127 doctors in emergency obstetric care; and increased PMTCT services.
- Government declaration of free primary education in 2005 substantially increased net enrolment rates from 59 per cent in the 2004-05 school session to 79 per cent in 2007-08. Gender equality in primary education will very likely be met, with the ratio of girls to boys currently at 0.91.
- UNICEF supported government education efforts through policy development; trained 2,000 school heads in gender education and 426 in early child development; constructed 387 classrooms for 21,300 pupils; and provided water and separate toilet facilities in schools, as well as equipment and learning materials for 349,950 pupils, and catch-up language classes in French and Kirundi for 1,250 repatriated children.
- UNICEF and its partners treated 809 victims of sexual violence, including 471 children, and helped 7,501 orphans and vulnerable children, including 615 street children, to return to school or obtain medical and psychosocial support.
- UNICEF assisted the government in increasing access to potable water and hygiene for 14,467 pupils and 9,410 local residents in three provinces; trained 17 Provincial Coordinators of Communal Water Boards; and helped to draw up the National Plan of Action on Hygiene and Sanitation.
- UNICEF trained 2,989 primary school teachers on HIV/AIDS prevention and supported the production of booklets on the same subject; trained 276 professionals in voluntary counselling and testing in 14 provinces; and trained 800 community leaders on the ‘4 Ps’ for AIDS prevention.
- Advocacy with Parliament facilitated nationwide consultations with governors, administrators and 2,758 chiefs on the National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the establishment of a National Children’s Forum. Parliament adopted both projects, and a Presidential Decree for the creation of the National Forum of Children has been approved by the Council of Ministers.
- UNICEF emergency services helped rehabilitate and reintegrate 6,427 persons expelled from Tanzania, build 750 shelters and 7 schools, and provide immediate assistance to 24,000 internally displaced persons and victims of natural disasters.
- UNICEF supported government efforts to update the national database, the BurundInfo, and to carry out studies on child poverty and disparities, and a situation analysis.
- UNICEF advocacy leveraged resources for children in supply procurement and sector-wide approaches.