World Relief Burundi

World Relief in Burundi: Maternal & Child Health


In Burundi, approximately 58 percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition is associated with serious medical issues later in life as well as lower education attainment, lower earnings and more prevalent violence. It is a result of poor nutritional practices, limited access to food, minimal dietary diversity and chronic illness. Because 80 percent of Burundians live on less than $1.25 per day and have limited access to the most basic financial services, poverty compounds these vulnerabilities and contributes to a cycle of malnutrition in households. World Relief is empowering the local church to serve the most vulnerable in Burundi and meet the holistic physical, spiritual and relational needs that exist. World Relief provides long-term training and supervision of staff and government officials, who in turn train Health Workers and mothers to promote better health practices in the community through behavioral transformation. Concurrently, World Relief works with the Ministry of Agriculture to train Community Health Workers on the operation and development of small gardens for women to grow food and improve household nutrition and dietary diversity. World Relief also works in partnership with church network Dutabarane to provide crucial financial instruments to the poor through Village Savings and Loans Associations.


Marasmus is a form of severe malnutrition caused by a deficiency in calories and energy.Félicité Havyarimana, a young woman from the central province of Gitega, had witnessed the effects of the disease in the life of her son, Alfred, ever since he was one year old. She said, “I was sad and desperate, not knowing what to do. In my despair, I turned to traditional healers, convinced that someone had cast a curse on my child.”

When a volunteer from World Relief’s Child Survival Program visited Félicité and examined her son, she explained that Alfred was suffering from malnutrition and that it could be cured. “I didn’t believe her, of course,” said Félicité. “Nevertheless, since nothing had worked so far, I started to follow her advice on health and nutrition, even if I wasn’t really convinced”.

A month later, Alfred began gaining weight and his health began improving. Encouraged, Félicité began participating in World Relief’s cooking workshops, where she learned about the components and preparation of well-balanced meals. “The lessons were really helpful to my children, especially to Alfred who was totally cured and went back to his normal weight,” said Félicité.

Almost three years old, Alfred is now a healthy child who, like many of his peers in the province, has benefited from World Relief’s Maternal & Child Health program. Félicité said that the program opened her eyes to the mistakes she did not know she was making when it came to the nutrition and health of her children. “Now,” she said, “I try as much as possible to keep them on a healthy and well-balanced diet, and I take them to the hospital to see a doctor at the first sign of illness, instead of seeking advice from traditional healers.”

At the root of the program is the long-term goal of Integral transformation of not only behavior, but beliefs, values and attitudes that bring Burundians to a place where they can experience the kind of life Jesus came to bring – life to the full (John 10:10).


Savings for Life™ is Changing Lives in Burundi

In Burundi, World Relief’s Savings for Life™ program empowers the most vulnerable in communities that lack access to even the most basic financial services. Savings helps the world’s poorest, who have shown tremendous capacity and willingness to save, build and protect their financial assets in climates where financial institutions can’t serve them.One of the members, Judith Niyonzima, shares how the program has affected her and her family's lives:

judith sfl

My name is Judith NIYONZIMA. I am 40 years old and live in Makamba province. I am married and have 6 children. Two of them are in secondary school.

I am currently the president of a village savings and loans association called Tugirumwete to which I joined in April 2011. Before joining the association, we were living in bad conditions. Our house was covered with grass, and our children hardly got school fees. It was also very impossible to get 20,000 BIF [approximately $12 USD] in the house. It was also difficult to have our children treated when sick.

When I joined the group, life became improved. In fact we saved our money, got credit and made a small business. This makes our family happy. If someone (a member) gets a problem, we help him/her with the social fund. We talk together as members of an association and study HIV/AIDS. At the beginning, my husband could not understand because he was not accustomed to seeing a woman supporting the household.

But at the sharing out [of the money], he became very interested and decided himself to join another association of the area. Now, we have built our house covered with iron sheets.

Learn more how Savings for Life™ is impacting women like Judith Niyonzima. Check out the post on Malawi's Savings for Life™ program by a US Church Partner.