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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 27 / 125





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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

Chapter three: Case Study One: Girls Affected By Violence And Conflict In Burundi

1 Introduction6

1.1 Country profile

Burundi is a small, landlocked, mountainous country bordering the north-east corner of Lake Tanganyika. As a Belgian colony, it was administered together with its northern neighbour, Rwanda, as one country - Rwanda-Urundi - from 1923 until 1962, when the two countries were established as separated entities and granted independence.

Burundi’s economy is dominated by agriculture, on which 94% of the population


The principal export crop is coffee, though other sources of foreign

currency include tea, sugar and hides. The international coffee market is notoriously fickle, and Burundi’s export earnings are vulnerable to market fluctuations. Burundi suffers from serious population pressure (a population density of 271 per square mile, the second highest in Africa) leading to environmental degradation (soil erosion as a result of overgrazing, the expansion of agriculture into marginal lands, and deforestation) which in turn limits agricultural production. Despite this, for most rural communities, subsistence agriculture is the main source of both food and income; given Burundi’s underdeveloped manufacturing base, rural people without access to land have few choices, other than agricultural wage labour or petty commerce. In addition, an international trade embargo was imposed on Burundi from 1996 to 1999, reducing the country’s access to markets and international financial services, and trade is only now beginning to recover. With a GDP per person of US$700, and 68% living below the poverty line (an estimated 71.5% in rural areas and 36.5% in urban areas) Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with the rural majority suffering the deepest poverty. In 2005 it ranked 169th out of 177 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index.

Burundi’s 7 million population is poorly served by education and health services. Only 52% of the population over 15 is literate (45 % of women, and 58 % of men). Infant mortality rates are 63 per 1,000 live births. An estimated 250,000 people are currently living with HIV and AIDS; the rate of HIV infection is 6% in the general population, and approximately 16% among pregnant women in the capital, Bujumbura. There is a wide difference between urban and rural seropositivity rates, although rural rates are increasing while urban rates appear to be stabilising.

1.2 Background to the war and the peace process

  • nformation for this section is drawn from a variety of references, listed as annex 

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