Tackling Orphan Healthcare in Burundi

courtesy of Burundi Friends International

courtesy of Burundi Friends International

For those of us who have grown up in loving family homes, or just a stable home for that matter, imagining the life of an orphan can be somewhat of an aberration. Certainly, orphans experience great adversity, no matter their global locale. However, the orphan travesty in Burundi is compounded, being that the country is one of the poorest in Africa, let alone in the world. With more than 800,000 orphans living in the country, they represent ten percent of the total population.

The reasons and circumstances surrounding the orphan crisis in Burundi vary. Just a few short years ago in 2005, the country ended a twelve-year civil war which ripped the country apart. The seemingly unending violence left families decimated and thousands of children without parents. Ultimately, these children took to the streets, having no choice but to fend for themselves. Additionally, the country faces a devastating crisis with regards to women and child imprisonment. Women who are imprisoned are often times raped, resulting in pregnancies and fatherless children. These children become orphans. As Burundi struggles to establish a stable economy, poverty serves as the other major factor weighing heavily on the orphan population.

These three main factors also attribute directly to the sorely needed healthcare among orphans, as well as the country as a whole. Though Burundi equates in size to the state of Maryland, it is primarily geographically composed of countryside and rural landscape. With a severe lack of proper resources, the country’s healthcare system struggles.

However, as recently as November 2011, the country seems to be on the upswing with regards to providing proper healthcare. According to Radio Television Nationale du Burundi, a new program with a focus on the amelioration of the economy will simultaneously boost the quality of the country’s healthcare. Since its inception, this program has slowly improved the quantity and quality of healthcare of Burundians.

In terms of healthcare, many organizations focusing on orphan issues emphasize that healthcare, education and the economy are all interrelated in solving the crisis. L’AMADE Mondiale deals with orphans in three major components: education, healthcare and shelter (lodging). Begun in 2008, this program is broken into separate phases. In the first phase, which ran from 2008 – 2011, the three major components were addressed. The second phase, begun in 2011, will focus more intensely on the education and healthcare of orphans and will run until 2014.

Another active organization, La Maison Shalom, employs a community approach when addressing the orphan crisis. They highlight the fact that a major portion of the orphan population stems from the poverty that inflicts the country. Using a holistic approach, they address health, education, culture, justice and particularly agriculture as it comprises 90 percent of the country’s exports.

Each piece weaves together a complete blanket that will cover the issue of healthcare among Burundian orphans. An issue that is best approached from all angles, the massive orphan population is slowly being cared for, but major strides must still be made.

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