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Salesians in Burundi Reach out to Bujumbura’s Vulnerable Youth with Food Assistance

Credit: Salesian Missions

Youths from poor backgrounds in Burundi’s largest city, Bujumbura, have had access to better nutrition courtesy of a partnership between the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) and Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization that provides food to vulnerable people across the globe. 

In a Monday, December 6 report, Salesian officials say they have been able to prepare 396,990 cooked meals for the youth who are students at the Lycée Don Bosco.

“Many of the students attending Lycée Don Bosco come from poor families who barely have enough to eat once a day,” Salesian officials are quoted as saying in the report. 

They add, “The rice-meals are provided to students during school hours so students have the strength and energy to focus on their studies and gain the skills needed for later employment.”

SDB members in Burundi are quoted as saying that the nutritional assistance to the Salesian school “has had a positive impact on students and teachers.”  

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The Principal of Lycée Don Bosco is particularly quoted explaining how the food has been beneficial to the students. 

“Students are happy, work better, keep smiling, play well and are regularly attending school. It is the same with the staff,” Mbaga Corneille says in the December 6 report. 

Placide Habimana, a beneficiary of the food, explains his experience saying, “The Rise Against Hunger rice is well appreciated, not by myself only, but by all students. As it contains nutrients, it is very nourishing and it is good for our good growth.”

Habimana, a student in the last class of secondary school, says that before he received the food he was having difficulty studying; he would often sleep during school lessons and was too weak from hunger to play sports. 

“After receiving better nutrition, Habimana studies well and follows directions from his teachers. He even has more energy to connect with his peers,” SDB officials have reported. 

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In the report, the Salesians involved in the nutritional initiative report that a majority of Burundians live in extreme poverty.

“Children are some of the most severely affected by the country’s rampant poverty. Fifty-three percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from growth stunting caused by inadequate food, low-quality diet, poor infant feeding practices, poor household management of childhood diseases and the general decline of the country’s health system,” the Salesian report indicates.  

Salesians further report that the country that is located “in the heart of the African Great Lakes region, has seen more than a decade of violence and conflict which has contributed to widespread poverty.”

They add in reference to the 2017 United Nations Human Development Index report, “Burundi ranks 185 out of 189 countries on the and close to 70 percent of its residents live below the poverty line.”

Salesians have also collaborated with Rise Against Hunger to provide food to vulnerable youth in Eswatini.

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Officials of the SDB-run Manzini Youth Care are in charge of distributing the food.

“The Salesian organization (Manzini Youth Centre) distributed meals to 720 beneficiaries. Salesians had hoped to reach 800 beneficiaries but due to challenges such as school closure during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, trouble with transportation bringing food into the villages, and youth who had relocated, they fell short of their goal,” SDB officials said in a November 29 report. 

The SDB members in Eswatini explained that the food aid was necessary especially at the height of COVID-19 because many people were unable to purchase meals after losing their jobs. 

“The unemployment rate is high and has become worse during the pandemic. People have lost their jobs while food prices have increased drastically”, the Salesians said in the November 29 report.

This story was first published by ACI Africa on 07 December 2021

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