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A Burundian woman and four children sit on the ground outside of their hut.
Rebuilding after war


The International Rescue Committee provides humanitarian assistance and protection to the most vulnerable in Burundi. The IRC also provides support for refugees from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Country facts
  • Total population: 10.9 million
  • People displaced by conflict: 460,000
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 185 of 189
IRC response
  • Started working in Burundi: 1996

Burundi situation briefing

Burundi is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The IRC has provided critical support in the country over the past two decades and continues to assist the most vulnerable today.

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What is the situation in Burundi?

Following large-scale protests and an attempted coup in 2015, hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled the country to neighboring countries, including Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. These countries are hosting 344,000 Burundian refugees.

Children fetch water from a well in the Muyenga province of Burundi
Children fetch water from a well in the Muyenga province of Burundi. Photo: Ton Koene/SV

In recent years, more than 55,000 Burundians have chosen to come back to their home country on a voluntary basis and 116,000 more are expected to arrive in 2019. Returnees and host communities face a number of obstacles such as poor access to basic services and livelihood opportunities, especially in rural areas, and lack of civil status documents. These movements also exacerbate pressure on scarce resources available in communities and cause land disputes in particular.  

Currently, more than 72,000 people are living in five camps in east Burundi and in need of humanitarian assistance to survive. All told, 1.7 million Burundians are in need aid.

Cases of violence against women and girls remain underreported due to social and security constraints and continues to be a daily reality for the most vulnerable.

How does the IRC help in Burundi?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future. We first began assisting Burundians in 1996, providing lifesaving interventions and emergency assistance to refugees and internally displaced people. Over the years, we helped the country rebuild following civil war.

Now, the IRC aims to ensure durable reintegration of returning Burundian refugees and supporting host communities by:

  • providing cash assistance during emergencies in less than 48 hours;
  • providing vocational training for young people and the most vulnerable;
  • helping people develop startups by providing business and entrepreneurial skills training;
  • creating financial safety nets through village savings and credit associations (VSLAs);
  • rehabilitating infrastructure such as latrines, handwashing stations, water pumps and water collection systems in public places;
  • reuniting children who were separated from their families due to displacement and helping them transition back to school and family life;
  • deinstitutionalizing children living in orphanages;
  • encouraging women’s empowerment and improving services for survivors of gender-based violence;
  • working with men and women on changing beliefs and attitudes that tolerate gender-based violence;
  • working to protect human rights and well-being of most vulnerable people like people with disabilities and increasing access to justice in communities;
  • building the capacity of local partners for more sustainability.

What still needs to be done?

Even with progress being made (half of people are in need of assistance compared to 2018), Burundi will likely remain a fragile state for some years to come.

We will continue to contribute toward creating a safe and protective environment for vulnerable communities, particularly women, girls and boys, through health, protection, livelihoods and education interventions. We will also work to narrow the gender gap between men and women, and boys and girls. We are working to achieve our goals in the following areas by 2020:

Children in Burundi practice their English letters at school.
Children in Burundi practice their English letters at school. Photo: Ton Koene/SV


We ensure people are protected from communicable diseases related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene practices.


We will work to ensure women and girls, men and boys are safe at home and in their communities from both violence and natural disaster. Additionally, we will focus on combating child labor to get boys and girls back in the classroom.


Investing in education for Burundi’s children is crucial. The IRC plans to focus on children up to five to ensure they attain age-appropriate levels of literacy and numeracy, as well as social and emotional skills.

Economic wellbeing

The IRC will continue to focus on village savings and loan associations to bolster self-sufficiency. We will spearhead programs to increase food security and crosscut economic empowerment initiatives with women’s empowerment programming to narrow the gender gap for women and girls.

Download the IRC's Burundi strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities through 2020.

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