UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
WFP SAYS SUSPENSION OF SANCTIONS WILL HELP BURUNDIANS MEET THEIR FOOD NEEDS
23 January 1999, Nairobi -- The UN World Food Programme said today that the suspension of regional economic sanctions against Burundi will be a major step in restoring the country ?s ability to meet its food needs.
The imposition of sanctions in July 1996 by states bordering Burundi helped to weaken the country?s economy, already hurt by the civil war which began in 1993. Today, representatives of the countries which imposed the sanctions - Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Zambia - agreed to suspend them.
The economic embargo, which prevented the free flow of commercial goods, drove the cost of food and agricultural items such as seeds, tools and fertilizers up. Even when sanctions were eased on all food items and agricultural inputs in April 1997, fuel prices which had risen three-fold were still a problem. The increase devastated the commercial transport industry, causing prices of staple foods to go up by as much as 120% and creating further hardships for the country?s poor.
?Many families could no longer afford to grow enough food or buy supplies in the markets,? said Thomas Yanga, WFP?s Representative in Burundi. ?This meant that people were eating less and becoming more vulnerable to malnutrition and disease.?
For the past two and a half years WFP has distributed over 67,000 metric tons of food in Burundi to offset the debilitating effects of the sanctions and ongoing insecurity. Nearly half was distributed in 1998, with an average of 218,000 people receiving emergency food assistance from WFP each month.
?The small farmers were hit the worst by the embargo,? said Yanga. ?Since the outbreak of civil war, crop production has been on the decline because farmers have had to deal with violent insecurity and increasing poverty. Sanctions have just added to their problems.?
More than 90 percent of Burundi?s estimated 6.2 million people depend on subsistence farming. Cash crop industries, such as coffee and tea, which in the past have accounted for 50% of the country?s GDP and 80% of its export earnings, have been unable to officially export their harvests under the embargo. This resulted in higher unemployment rates and lower earning levels.
Trade with neighboring countries, which traditionally has made up for production shortfalls was initially severed under the sanctions, compounding Burundi?s food problem. After the embargo was eased in 1997, there was a limited resumption of food imports, but not enough to meet the country?s overall needs.
Even livestock health conditions deteriorated during this period as veterinary products became more expensive and scarce.
?It will take time before Burundi?s agricultural production returns to previous levels,? said Yanga. ?The country will need significant amounts of food aid in the immediate future to enable families to slowly recover, and allow the tens of thousands affected by insecurity to receive emergency assistance.?
Nearly 600,000 Burundians have been displaced from their homes due to continuous outbursts of insecurity and violence in the country. A recent UN report indicates that 5 of Burundi?s 17 provinces remain periodically troubled by conflict, while the other 12 are in desperate need of rehabilitation and development.
WFP hopes now that sanctions have been suspended, the agency will be able to increase its focus on long-term development projects which would enable Burundi to become more self-reliant in the years ahead.
Over the next two years, WFP will put more resources into Food-For-Work projects which emphasize rehabilitation and income-generation, particularly for women. Through these projects and emergency assistance, the agency estimates it will distribute over 50,000 tons of food in 1999, reaching over 300,000 Burundians every month.
The World Food Programme is the United Nations? front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. Last year its relief workers fed 53 million people. Based in Rome, Italy the agency operates in 76 countries around the world.
For more information, contact:
Michele Quintaglie Information Officer WFP Kenya Tel. (254-2) 622336
Sharon Kellman Reports Officer WFP Burundi Tel. (257) 225621/223072
Date: Tue, 26 Jan 1999 12:50:30 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: BURUNDI: WFP news release on suspension of sanctions 1999.1.23
Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar, email@example.com