Communities protect children in Burundi
There are an estimated 720,000 orphans and vulnerable children in Burundi.
Years of conflict have created extremely challenging conditions for many children. Over half a million people have been internally displaced and this has disrupted family structures. Children have lost their parents in combat and girls have suffered gender-based violence, such as rape. The impact of the war on health services and facilities (especially in the north) has increased the vulnerability of families, and particularly children. This is compounded by poor systems for identifying and looking after orphans and vulnerable children, and a lack of appropriate facilities for children.
In Burundi, Alliance Burundaise Contre le SIDA (ABS) is working to develop and strengthen community child protection and welfare systems through child protection committees (CPCs). By providing social services such as child protection and alternative care, community-based child protection goes beyond social assistance to families. With funding from Global Fund Round 8 (which began in January 2010), ABS aims to support over 3,000 CPCs across nine of Burundi’s 17 provinces.
ABS builds the capacity of CPCs to identify which children are most vulnerable. CPC members identify stresses within families such as poverty, illness and violence. They are trained to provide counselling and to make referrals in the absence of professional support. ABS supports the CPCs in developing protocols for responding to child protection violations, and monitoring their own performance through self-assessment.
For example, in a community in the Bururi province, the CPC investigated concerns about a six year-old child who was being raised by her maternal uncle, a soldier who resided in the Bururi military camp. The uncle’s wife subjected the child to abuse including daily beatings and physical labour beyond her ability. She was made to wash the clothes of her cousins, clean the house daily and peel vegetables. As punishment for tasks not completed she was subjected to harsh physical abuse and made to go without food all day. Teachers had noticed the girl crying during break times and referred her case to the CPC. The CPC investigated the injuries and abuse, and made appropriate referrals to the police and justice bureau. The CPC also took steps to protect the child by arranging temporary alternative foster care, while an appropriate long-term family-based placement was found.