Bujumbura (Fides Service )- AIDS and malnutrition are two priorities to tackle for 2004 by Caritas Burundi known here as Centre d’Entraide et de Développement CED one of the main humanitarian organisations of the Catholic Church in Burundi, among the poorest countries in Africa. Other priorities for CED-Caritas Burundi include: improving living conditions in prison; education and re-insertion in society of orphans; increase agricultural production in most vulnerable zones from the point of view of food security.
CED-Caritas Burundi plans to tackle these problems through formation of medical personnel, help returning refugees to rebuild abandoned villages, educate children to peace and reconciliation. CED also hopes to finance micro-projects proposed by voluntary associations and rural communities.
The activity of CED-Caritas Burundi is essential in a country where HIV affects 9,4% of city dwellers and 2,5% of rural people. With regard to food security, in the first half of 2003 Burundi registered 1.711 cases of very serious malnutrition and 9.480 less serious cases. No less than 400,000 Burundians depend on international food aid. Another serious problem caused by civil war is the high numbers of refugees: 839.420 refugees and 281.628 internally displaced persons. War destroyed most of the country’s infrastructures, including schools and hospitals. The poverty rate, 40% in 1994, is today 70%. Only 51% of school age children attend school and only 49,2 % of the population can read and write. Considering these facts Burundi is 171st on the list of the development of the world’s 173 nations.
Hope for improvement in living conditions is growing since the government and the main rebel group FDD Forces for the Defence of Democracy reached an agreement for a cease fire and power sharing. The rebels will occupy the vice-presidency of the Republic, four ministries, 40% army officer posts and 35% of police officer positions.
However the peace process will be consolidated only if the second rebel group National Liberation Forces FLN accepts to negotiate with the government. The FLN, which occupies the area surrounding Bujumbura, continues to strike the capital with rockets and mortars.
(L.M.) (Fides Service27/11/2003 lines 36, words 438)