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How is the ongoing crisis in Burundi affecting Gen Z?

The ongoing political crisis in Burundi is weaking the country’s economy and negatively impacting the lives of young people. Child labour, trafficking, high illiteracy, early pregnancy, and teenage marriage are all major problems in an already unstable climate.

Burundi is one of the poorest countries in the world. The humanitarian and political crisis that continues to unfold has taken a toll on its people and deepened societal struggles.

Landlocked in east-central Africa, the country has witnessed political tensions for decades, with thousands fleeing to neighbouring countries in search of stability.

To add to the hardship, climate change related catastrophes such as floods and landslides have caused fatalities and pose serious future risk. Education has continuously been disrupted in rural locations where schools and homes have been flooded, forcing many to leave in search of safer areas.

How is the crisis displacing the population?

According to the UN, like most African countries, more than 60% of Burundi’s population are young.

Gen Z are mostly in school or entry level jobs. Unemployment rates remain high and agriculture is the main economic contribution from more than 80% of the population.

Despite this, food production has slowed as a result of changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change. Many children under the age of 5 are malnourished, leading to death in some cases.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), some displaced children are forced into labour on farms both in Burundi and across central and eastern parts of Africa. Others are trafficked as far as the Middle East with little to no pay in most circumstances.

Commercial sexual exploitation in Burundi has recently risen exponentially.

According to the US Bureau of International Labour Affairs, more girls from Burundi continue to be trafficked to Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, and the Middle East for commercial sex.

Years of political disputes have left women and girls most at risk of human trafficking and forced marriages in neighbouring countries.

A majority of the recent victims are Gen Zers who continue to suffer from years of civil war.

In some parts of the country, children as young as 12 are imprisoned in adult jails. More than 75% of imprisoned children are in these jails without trial.

Corrupt police officials and a lack of funding means prisons are not segregated by gender, escalating levels of sexual assault as hundreds of women are abused and fall pregnant.

Basic education remains a major problem in Burundi. According to a report from Save the Children in 2021, an estimated 67% of displaced children in Burundi are out of school and only 1 out of 10 receive full education.

A lack of identity documents such as birth certificates hinder registration processes in schools. For the children returning after political disputes, only 10% get full access to education and about 38% of girls aged 12-17 years end up married.

What has been the international and government response?

The Burundi government in recent years has increased prosecutions of suspected trafficking offences and the judicial system has strict laws to protect victims.

The UN agency International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has partnered with the government to enhance education and create awareness on effective prevention of human traffickers. Additionally, the IOM has partnered with local organisations to coordinate inclusivity.

Education in Burundi has taken a step forward with a new ‘medium-term transitional education plan’. This ensures the government focuses on funding basic education at mostly the primary level to be accessible to all children.

To scale up the education sector, the government has increased its budget allocation to the Ministry of Education.

Internationally, the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) introduced an educational program allocating funds of up to 46.9 million USD. This will help scale up inclusive education to all communities and assist the building of classes and schools.