The Republic of Burundi is located in the heart of the African Great Lakes Region and has a population of over 11 million people. Decades of political conflict have resulted in a very unstable economic situation and the population is among the poorest in the world. With 80% of the people employed in agriculture, family income and food security are affected by recurrent droughts and other natural disasters. Other challenges include the widespread prevalence of HIV/AIDS and the poor education system. Despite some recent improvements in education, the illiteracy rate remains extremely high.
SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in Burundi since 1979.
Like in so many other African countries, a major public health concern is HIV/AIDS: around 85,000 people live with the virus in Burundi. This not only depletes the country's labour force as many Burundians die from the disease, but also leaves children extremely vulnerable when they lose parental care as a result. In addition, some children become infected with HIV through their mothers during pregnancy, which leaves them vulnerable to complications.
Primarily owing to the country's poor education system, illiteracy levels remain extremely high: over 30% of Burundians cannot read and write. Often, children in Burundi are expected to contribute to household income and cannot attend school. In other cases, children who are left without parental care have to fend for themselves, leaving no opportunity for obtaining an education. While the number of younger children going to school has risen recently, there has been a drop in the number of 12 to 14-year-olds attending school.
Many years of intense civil war have contributed to widespread poverty: 8 in 10 people in Burundi suffer from poverty, making it one of Africa's poorest nations.
Particularly in rural areas, people face precarious living conditions. The long period of fighting has destroyed important farming infrastructure and land, posing a threat to the primary source of livelihood for most Burundians. Due to high levels of poverty, around 35% of all children in Burundi are undernourished.