Located in a mountainous region in northern Burundi, Muyinga is a small city facing many social challenges including poverty, unemployment and homelessness.
As the city works to recover from 12 years of civil war, SOS Children is helping vulnerable children access basic essentials and providing psychological support.
Muyinga slowly recovers from the effects of civil war
The small city of Muyinga is located in northern Burundi, about 196 kilometres from Bujumbura and at an altitude of 1,731 metres above sea level. The province of Muyinga is home to approximately 100,000 people and shares borders with Rwanda and Tanzania.
Unemployment rates in Burundi are among the highest in the world, extreme poverty is widespread and as a result, many families in Muyinga are living in severe hardship. Soaring prices of basic necessities, including rice, bread, electricity, gas and water, coupled with an inflation rate of 16.4% in 2011, have resulted in families not being able to afford to live. A majority of households are dependent on aid programmes to ensure their survival.
In Muyinga, homelessness is common for both adults and children. Children without homes are exposed to many risks, whether they live alone or as part of a gang, and in particular the inhospitable weather conditions. Due to the city’s altitude, freezing night time temperatures and frequent rains can be a serious health hazard for those without shelter.
Burundi is ranked 185th out of 187 countries when considering factors such as health, education and income. This makes Burundi one of the three least developed countries in the world and approximately 80% of the country’s population lives in poverty. The World Food Programme says that more than 56% of children under the age of five are chronically malnourished. Alongside these social hardships, the country has also seen its share of internal conflict. Burundi’s 12-year civil war ended in 2009, but the resulting peace is fragile and political killings and escalations of violence took place as recently as 2011.
In 2008, a combatant group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was reported to have recruited child soldiers from Burundi. Children living in Burundi today face insecurity, extreme poverty and very limited support for the severe traumas many of them suffered during the years of violent conflict.
Our emergency relief effort becomes a permanent presence in the community
In 1998, SOS Children’s Villages established a presence in Muyinga as part of an emergency relief programme for children who had been separated from their parents, or had lost them to illness or in the conflict. Refugee camps in Muyinga housed thousands of local orphans, providing temporary accommodation for children as the Children’s Village was being built.
SOS Children is now in a position to provide support not only to vulnerable children, but also to families experiencing extreme hardship in the local community and more than 400 children and their caregivers now benefit from our services.
Our family-strengthening programme provides parents and carers with advice and support in parenting and income generating, so they are able to confidently lead and provide for their families. We provide counselling to children and their parents, and in particular, we assist families living with HIV/AIDS.
In addition, we work hard to ensure that children have access to essential educational, nutritional and health services. In cooperation with local authorities, we also work towards strengthening the support systems available within the community. Over 400 children and their caregivers currently benefit from these services.
Our work in Muyinga
In Muyinga, we currently have 15 SOS families providing a stable and loving home for up to 150 children who are no longer able to live with their own parents. In our SOS families, children grow up alongside their brothers and sisters and are cared for by an affectionate SOS Mother.
Around 90 children, including SOS children and children from local families, attend the SOS Nursery in Muyinga, allowing them to integrate with their community from an early age. Access to safe and professional day care is highly valued by parents who would otherwise have to leave their children in order to attend a job or look for work.
The SOS Primary School in Muyinga is an important educational facility for the region and is attended by more than 430 children.
When SOS children are ready to move out of the family home and pursue their independence; the SOS youth programme provides safe, stable accommodation in a semi-independent setting, where they can continue their education and vocational training under the guidance of a qualified counsellor. In Muyinga, we operate five SOS youth homes: two for boys and three for girls.