CERF: Tackling the nutrition crisis in Burundi

20 June, 2012
2012: Two-year-old Arcade Maniragarura plays with his mother, Domitile Nahimana, during a cooking session at the UNICEF-supported Positive Deviance site in the commune of Matongo, Kayanza province, northern Burundi. Credit: UNICEF Burundi/Pawel Krzysiek
2012: Two-year-old Arcade Maniragarura plays with his mother, Domitile Nahimana, during a cooking session at the UNICEF-supported Positive Deviance site in the commune of Matongo, Kayanza province, northern Burundi. Credit: UNICEF Burundi/Pawel Krzysiek

Two-year-old Arcade Maniragarura is one of many children affected by malnutrition in Burundi. Until May this year, Arcade, who has eight older siblings, was too weak to walk.

In Burundi, nearly 1 million children under age 5 are chronically malnourished. According to UNICEF figures, Burundi has the world’s second-highest stunting rates after Afghanistan; half the country’s children under age 5 suffer from stunting due to chronic nutritional deficiencies. 
 
Food shortages in Burundi began when heavy rains at the end of 2011 damaged two successive harvests, affecting some 750,000 people. The deficit has made it difficult for mothers and children to access nutritious meals. 
 
In response to this crisis, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) allocated US$2 million to UN agencies, including UNICEF, in May 2012. The funds were used to help save the lives of 150,000 people, including 8,000 children under age 5. 
 
“The CERF funding continues to help UNICEF in support of Government efforts, and contribute to reducing child death and illness among communities impacted by food insecurity,” says UNICEF’s Representative in Burundi, Johannes Wedenig. 
 
With $535,000 from CERF, UNICEF launched a Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition project, which helped provide treatment and improve the health-care system. Before the project, the children in Arcade’s village often had to wait several days to be treated for malnutrition at health centres. The tracking and referral system was very weak. 
 
The project allows children without any medical complications to be treated at home with ready-to-use therapeutic foods, which provides the nutrients they need.     
 
“When I first came to see the boy, he was very weak,” said a community member who first screened Arcade for malnutrition. “Look at him now! He’s the most active one in the group!”