The United Nations Special Envoy for Burundi today travelled to Tanzania where he hopes an East African community summit over the weekend will help reinforce dialogue among the Burundian parties amid concerns raised by UN agencies that the current political instability and violence puts children at risk and could lead to a humanitarian crisis.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that amid the ongoing crisis in Burundi, children are at risk, especially those who have been exposed to violent clashes and demonstrations along with the more than 60,000 refugees who had fled to neighbouring countries.
“Prolonged insecurity was likely to have a massive impact on an already vulnerable population,” said UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac told the UN press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland.
At the same briefing, the World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs, said the agency is concerned that the political instability in Burundi could lead to a humanitarian crisis.
“It was also affecting food security inside Burundi, which is already one of the poorest and most food insecure countries on earth,” Ms. Byrs said.
In the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, Said Djinnit, UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and facilitator of the political dialogue, today called on all Burundian parties to exercise restraint and to refrain from any action that could generate violence and increase tensions.
“Despite persisting divergences on the core issue of the presidential term,” he said, “the parties agreed to pursue their dialogue and have exchanged views on confidence building measures and mutual commitments regarding the management of the electoral calendar, guarantees and measures for the holding of free, transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections, and Constitutional political rights and freedoms.”
Mr. Djinnit spoke to reporters today before travelling to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to participate in the East African Community Summit on Sunday.
The envoy said he hopes the summit will provide further guidance and impetus to reinforce the Burundian dialogue, and called on all Burundian parties to exercise restraint and to refrain from any action that could generate violence and increase tension.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said that since the start of the crisis five children had been killed by bullet wounds, including one just yesterday morning, and 200 children had been injured since the start of the street protests in and around Bujumbura on 26 April.
He also expressed concern over cases of the unlawful detention of children in prisons and said that UNICEF was working with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to identify children who may have been arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained in Bujumbura prisons in an effort to secure their release and reunite them with their families.
WFP spokesperson Byrs said her agency was providing food assistance to more than 60,000 Burundian refugees who fled to Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.