In 2005, major steps towards peace and stability were attained in Burundi, allowing for the start of longer term programmes with a view to durable development. The formal transition period, set up through the August 2000 Arusha Agreement was successfully completed with the election of new central and local authorities. Some 16,000 soldiers were demobilized and an additional 11,000 members of various militias disarmed and returned to the community.
The return of IDPs in southern provinces continued, while the residual caseload (approximately 116,000 IDPs) remained in sites, mostly located in central and northern Burundi. The UNHCR-led voluntary repatriation programme enabled 68,000 refugees to return from Tanzania. The northern provinces of Ngozi and Kirundo witnessed an inward flow of Rwandan asylum seekers from April 2005. The humanitarian community played a critical role in ensuring that cholera outbreaks, food insecurity and other localised emergencies were addressed.
• Ensure the effective and timely provision of assistance to vulnerable populations
• Provide effective national and international coordination structures to address the assistance and protection needs of affected populations
• Support the consolidation/development of early warning and emergency preparedness mechanisms to respond to potential crises and natural disasters.
While those objectives remained in force throughout the year, OCHA also focused on bridging the gap between emergency response to humanitarian need, and the various strategies developed towards reconstruction and development, by establishing much closer relationships with key actors such as UNDP and the World Bank.
Between March and May, OCHA updated its IDP study, the results supporting the design of an IDP Action Plan to respond to IDP return or resettlement specific needs. A draft was completed in September and the plan is to be submitted to the government in 2006. The IDP study also served as a key tool for government, UN Agencies, NGOs and donors in their own strategic programming.
The office coordinated the elaboration of the 2006 Common Humanitarian Action Plan (CHAP)/ Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) which succeeded in combining immediate humanitarian priorities and consistently articulating related programmes to reflect transitional needs and avoid impeding the implementation of longer term projects.
OCHA maintained regular contact with civil and military authorities regarding the protection of the civil population in areas still affected by the conflict between the national forces and the last active rebel group, Palipehutu FNL.
The Geographic Information Group (GIG) created in 2004 and facilitated by OCHA, expanded its coverage to include humanitarian actors and relevant national institutions. This resulted in the consolidation and dissemination through maps and databases of large volumes of data addressing humanitarian needs and operations.
The establishment of the Information Management Unit (IMU) in February resulted in regular dissemination of key information products to relevant partners, helped identify gaps in assistance delivery through enhancing information management tools, and allowed for an upgrade of the OCHA Burundi website.
In order to support the integration of post-conflict transition needs at all levels of programming, OCHA carried out wide consultation for the global reshaping of coordination mechanisms. This included the rationalisation of national thematic groups in view of their future integration into the PRSP coordination mechanisms, the creation of an in-country IASC team, and the establishment in 12 of Burundi’s 17 provinces of operational sector coordination mechanisms in direct link with the respective thematic group at national level.
More than 250 OCHA field missions in all provinces, about half of them joint missions with other UN Agencies or NGOs, ensured regular humanitarian monitoring and dissemination of the findings. In this way, the office enabled appropriate interventions, notably in addressing food insecurity, cholera outbreaks, population displacements and natural disasters.
The protection group chaired by OCHA brought together more than 10 organisations, including UN Agencies, the UN Mission in Burundi (ONUB) and NGOs, on a monthly basis. Advocacy with the national armed forces, agreed through the group, resulted in a significant reduction in post-delivery looting of food and non-food relief in western provinces, and in the mitigation of discrimination against the most destitute to access the beneficiary list.
The establishment of an IASC country team in September helped ensure that ongoing emergency concerns, including protection issues, were kept on the agenda, and not overshadowed by transitional and development issues. Although no specific protection plan was elaborated, the IDP Action Plan addressed many protection issues, which were consistently addressed through the protection working group.
Along with WFP, FAO and NGO partners, OCHA continued to take a leading role as part of the executive committee of the food security early warning and response (SAP-SSA) project, which forewarned of anticipated crisis points from June to the end of the year and advocated with donors for support of preventive action. The early response that resulted helped prevent a large-scale famine anticipated for November.
By facilitating information sharing and coordination between humanitarian actors and the various components of ONUB, OCHA contributed to ensuring a greater level of protection and advocacy in favour of more than 400,000 conflict affected people in Bujumbura-Rural and Bubanza, where compliance with international humanitarian law is an ongoing concern.
With offices in Bujumbura,Makamba and Ruyigi OCHA was able to maintain comprehensive coverage of protection and humanitarian issues. Using its in-depth knowledge of the situation on the ground, OCHA played a key role in ensuring that actors at the national level were able to address actual needs.
The Burundi CAP was 56 percent funded in 2005. The funding gap on reintegration activities was notable and did not allow for extending housing programmes as required. As a result, a significant number of Burundian refugees who had returned to Burundi went back to Tanzania or settled in IDP sites, as was the case in Makamba and Gisuru in Ruyigi province.
OCHA’s coordination efforts also allowed the senior management of ONUB to give adequate consideration to humanitarian and early recovery issues, as part of the whole process towards consolidating peace. The improvement of day-to-day working mechanisms between OCHA and the ONUB Civil and Military Coordination Unit resulted in joint humanitarian operations, provision of security to refugees and humanitarian workers in conflict zones, and logistics and engineering support to humanitarian assistance.