Burundi: Caritas Internationalis aids displaced persons

Inspired by the conviction that “development is the new name for peace,” Caritas establishes an aid program for Burundian refugees

By Fr Benedict Mayaki, SJ

Caritas Internationalis has launched a three-year program to provide support for Burundian refugees in Mahama camp, Rwanda, to help them “gain autonomy and enjoy a dignified life where they can earn enough money to take care of their families.”

Caritas said that the €380,000 programme, launched during the summer of 2020, is focused on helping women launch small businesses and providing tools and seeds for people to farm, as well as offering assistance for the elderly, ensuring they are fed and taken care of. 

At the same time, the programme is training mediators to provide peacebuilding training to the camp community and providing support to promote the protection of the human rights of refugees and people suffering from mental illnesses.

Displaced by conflict

Since 2015, hundreds of thousands of Burundians have fled their country due to the turmoil that ensued from widespread demonstrations after the ruling parting presented Pierre Nkurunziza as their presidential candidate for a third term, in violation of the country’s constitution. 

Many Burundians fled to neighbouring Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. While some are being repatriated, many continue to raise their families in precarious conditions far from home.

Rebuilding lives

Ngarambe Vanson, Caritas Rwanda staff member, pointed out that even a small amount of financial support makes a world of difference to the women.

The story of Kayirangwa Emeline, a mother of eight who received a loan to help a business of selling goat meat, is an example of such growth. Within six months of being a vendor in Burundi, her business grew and she was able to buy a cow, whose milk she and her children could drink for nourishment; as well as a motorbike to transport her goods. However, her business has been hard-hit during the Covid-19 pandemic and she needs support to get through this difficult time.

Appeal for support

As in the case of Kayirangwa and many others, the work of Caritas and the generosity of donors have helped displaced person improve the quality of their lives. 

Inspired by Pope VI’s words that “development is the new name for peace,” Caritas calls on people to support displaced persons, stressing that their contributions could play a “life-saving role for our brothers and sisters in need.”

“In this time of pandemic, solidarity is not just an option, but it is the best way for delivering hope and opportunities to those struggling the most.”