Burundi, one of the world’s poorest countries, is recovering from the trauma of civil war and ethnic conflict. Its population continues to rise and existing infrastructure is not adequate.
Basic health and education services are limited and extreme poverty is widespread. SOS Children has been supporting children and families in Gitega since 1976.
The challenges of poverty, limited infrastructure and a rising population
With a population of almost 23,000, Gitega is one of Burundi’s largest cities. It is located 80 kilometres east of Bujumbura and is served by its own airport and is home to the Burundi National Museum.
Burundi has one of the highest fertility rates in the world, which means that Gitega’s population continues to experience constant growth. It is estimated that around 56% of the country’s population is under the age of 15 years. Many children are orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS and the majority are living in a state of serious poverty.
Food insecurity is a daily threat for families and children in Gitega, as well as health concerns including malaria and cholera, due to inadequate sanitation. Many children suffer from malnutrition and the country has a very high mortality rate among young children.
Families affected by HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS places considerable strain on extended families who will take in orphaned relatives and families’ extreme poverty is often a reason for not being able to care for young orphans. In many cases, children find themselves living on the streets or struggling in child-led households. Children have almost no access to health services and education opportunities, limiting their future prospects and increasing their vulnerability.
Droughts and floods are also a serious threat to the health and stability of the population, who rely on agriculture; a major part of Burundi’s economy and the country’s main source of food for its people.
Successful initiatives are needed to improve conditions for children
Gitega’s local authorities are currently working on initiatives to improve conditions for the children of the region. Gitega province has one of the highest populations in Burundi and a large number of children either living without adult care, or at risk of losing the care of their parents. The need for social and physical infrastructure is far greater than what is available and the government is unable to keep up with the constantly rising population.
Burundi’s high fertility rate and the soaring number of adults living with HIV/AIDS continues to place considerable strain on available infrastructure, and the number of vulnerable children will continue to increase in the coming years. SOS Children is working closely with authorities in Gitega and local partners to bring positive and lasting changes to the region.
Our work in Gitega
SOS Children’s Villages established its presence in Gitega in 1976 and since that time has worked with countless local families, supporting and strengthening families at risk of breaking apart. We have put in place numerous initiatives focused on helping families to be self sufficient and giving parents and carers the skills and confidence to lead and provide for their families. In Gitega we organise food distribution, provide education for children and offer counselling and support for families affected by HIV/AIDS.
Children who are no longer able to live with their parents can be accommodated in one of our SOS family homes. Up to 130 children in Gitega grow up with their brothers and sisters in stable, loving environments in our 13 SOS families. Each child has his or her own development plan enabling them to focus on acquiring skills that will assist them in self-sufficiency and securing employment as they move towards adulthood.
Education and health services
The majority of the children who attend the SOS Nursery come SOS families or from the surrounding community. Our nursery is a safe, caring environment that provides early-learning opportunities for young children while their parents are out at work. The SOS Primary School in Gitega has an enrolment of more than 430 students from the surrounding community.
SOS youth programmes provide young people from SOS families with a safe, semi-independent living arrangement as they complete their education or vocational training.
SOS Children also operates a medical centre in the city, which treats more than 12,000 members of the community each year.
Vulnerable children and families in Gitega benefit from our services in the area. You can help a child who has become orphaned by becoming a sponsor. Help give them hope for the future.