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Children’s futures being compromised as violence escalates in Burundi, says UNICEF

2015-11-18

More than 200,000 people have fled to neighbouring Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC

Nairobi, November 18, 2015 – Children risk bearing the brunt of an escalation in violence in Burundi, UNICEF warned today, noting that the crisis has already left 17 children dead and many more injured.

Since the crisis began in April, child rights violations have multiplied, with children being caught up in violent clashes and raids, schools being hit by grenade blasts and more than 100 children being arbitrarily detained, at times for long periods alongside adult prisoners.

“Children must not pay the price for the crisis in Burundi,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director in Eastern & Southern Africa, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala. “Burundian law establishes clear respect for children’s rights, and the protection of children from violence. Such laws must be respected.”

Food prices escalate and IMF predicts economy will shrink

UNICEF said it is deeply concerned on the impact on children from both violence and increasing poverty and vulnerability. Food prices are rising sharply, and with more than four out of five Burundians already living on less than $1.25 a day, more and more families will find it difficult to adequately feed their children. In addition, the IMF predicts that Burundi’s economy will shrink by 7.2 per cent this year, putting even greater strain on the government budget and the country’s social services. Worryingly, Burundi is already seeing shortages of essential medicines for children and mothers.

UNICEF said it is imperative that at this time there is continued investment in children, from protection to education to healthcare. “There is a strong case for support, now in these troubled times more than ever,” said UNICEF’s Gharagozloo-Pakkala.

More than 200,000 people flee violence to neighbouring countries

Beyond Burundi’s borders, more than 200,000 people have fled into neighbouring Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Among these are around 6,000 unaccompanied or separated children. In fleeing Burundi, these children faced mountainous terrain and security checkpoints, as well as dangers of sexual abuse, trafficking or further violence.

Border provinces in Burundi are also reporting large numbers of internally displaced, with around 15,000 people currently residing in Makamba province on the border of Tanzania. United Nations agencies and partners in neighbouring country refugee camps are poised for an influx in the near future which would further stretch existing humanitarian support, such as healthcare, schooling and clean water.

UNICEF is appealing for US$25 million to support its humanitarian response for children and families affected by the crisis in Burundi. This funding will facilitate lifesaving services and supplies for children in Burundi as well as Burundian refugees in Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Currently this appeal is barely one-quarter funded.

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UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.