Commonly called the ‘Heart of Africa’, Burundi lies almost in the centre of the African continent with its borders resembling the shape of a heart. As a result of its turbulent history, Burundi is still one of the ten poorest countries in the world: much of the population lives on less than one dollar a day and life expectancy does not exceed 49 years. It’s also the most population-dense country in Africa. There is an average of 248 people per square mile and the population is growing rapidly at nearly 3% each year.
Burundi has been plagued by ongoing civil war for the past 15 years. Burundi’s first democratically elected president was assassinated in October 1993 after only 100 days in office, triggering widespread ethnic violence. More than 200,000 Burundians perished during the conflict that spanned almost a dozen years. Most recently, a renewed political conflict in 2015 has seen more than 315,000 Burundians flee to neighbouring countries, triggering one of the worst refugee crises in Africa. The refugees are still arriving as of November 2016, as the situation in Burundi remains tense and unpredictable. This unrest has had devastating social and economic effects on this already impoverished nation, and the rate of unemployment continues to soar. With a sluggish economy, formerly employed middle-income individuals and families are facing joblessness and the inability to make a living due to the disruption of businesses and displacement of employers.
Wings of Hope for Africa – our first community garden
Less than one-third of Burundi’ and Rwanda’s population has enough food to eat throughout the year. As a result, nearly 60% of their population is chronically malnourished. 90% of families in Burundi and Rwanda are subsistence farmers who rely on farming to meet their food and income needs. Even during harvest season when food is most plentiful, households spend up to two-thirds of their income on food. Burundi and Rwanda are two of the ‘red zone’ countries identified by WFP as being among the most affected by soaring food prices. This is mainly the result of inadequate domestic food production. Last year Burundi alone faced a food production deficit of over 32%.
Repairing the house of one of our sponsored families
Hunger in Burundi is caused by a combination of factors: the inheritance of decades of civil conflict, land scarcity and diminishing quality of arable land through over-use and erosion. Access to land and more especially to arable land of good quality is very unequal. The country has suffered the impact of climate change with more violent extremes and erratic rainfall patterns over the last two decades. According to the World Food Programme, less than one-third of Burundi’s population has enough food to eat throughout the year. As a result, nearly 60% of Burundi’s population is chronically malnourished.
Hunger in Rwanda is much the same: still recovering from the Rwandan Genocide, the conversion of pasture into cropland caused a reduction in livestock production, and a parallel decline in the ability to improve soil fertility led to a reduction of crop production. There are also a large number of refugees in Rwanda (from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo), putting a further strain on available resources. According to WFD, Rwanda has a 37% rate of chronic malnourishment among children under five.
Wings of Hope for Africa – harvesting crops
Like much of Central Africa, Burundi and Rwanda are prone to natural disasters such as floods, hailstorms, drought and torrential rain. In recent years, the countries have registered an unusually high number of natural disasters, which have contributed to the displacement of communities, the destruction of homes, the disruption of livelihoods and the further deterioration of food and nutrition security.
Distribution of health care cards
Our charity also operates in Calgary, Alberta. Our Hope for Kids Program Canada helps to give low-income and single-parent families the funds necessary to send their children to school, as well as helping these families identify other resources available to help support them.
We also support local organizations that have the same goals and values as Wings of Hope. We have donated food and supplies to the YWCA Calgary and recently donated $10,000 to The Mustard Seed.
We hope to expand our work in Calgary to help even more people facing homelessness, poverty and violence by helping them achieve the basic needs of life.
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