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Visit of the Regional Director of UNFPA ESARO to Burundi

“This solar lamp will allow me to revise my classes in the evening, something that was almost impossible. God bless you abundantly.”

After receiving a solar lamp and a dignity kit from ESA Regional Director Dr. Julitta Onabanjo, Kubembeleza Huguette, a 19-year-old refugee in Burundi, said the gifts had made her day.

Dr. Onabanjo met 200 Congolese refugee women and girls like Huguette during her visit to Burundi from February 26 to March 1. She also met 860 internally displaced women and girls in Gatumba (western Burundi). In both locations, she was welcomed warmly by the refugees and internally displaced women and girls, and treated to songs and dances.

“No one can ignore the grief and problems that these women and girls and their families have been through,” Dr. Onabanjo said.

Dignity kits and solar lamps were given to the 200 refugee women and girls. About 860 dignity kits and 750 solar lamps were also handed to the internally displaced women and girls in Gatumba.

“I've been here since 2013. I did not bring anything because we were fleeing the rebels. This dignity kit meets the basic needs of a woman in general and particularly, a refugee woman. I can never thank you enough,” said Kabola Tumba Carine, a Congolese woman who has taken refuge in Burundi.

The visit was also an opportunity for Dr. Onabanjo to meet beneficiaries of family planning services. She visited the ABUBEF (Association Burundaise pour le Bien-Etre Familial) clinic, a key partner of UNFPA Burundi in the promotion of family planning. After presentation of the key results obtained by ABUBEF in  collaboration with partners, including UNFPA Burundi, Dr. Onabanjo visit the clinic to learn about the services offered to beneficiaries. She met with beneficiaries and asked them to be ambassadors for family planning for the benefit of other families as well as the country in general.

A father, who asked to remain anonymous, shared his experiences of family planning:

“I underwent a vasectomy because my wife did not want to [use] family planning. She wanted to have as many children as possible. We already have five children and I did not want my children to suffer as I [did as one] of eight children. It was hard to convince my wife but, helped by ABUBEF, she [agreed to] the vasectomy option and now we are happier and more fulfilled.”

Advocating for youth

Dr. Onabanjo met young people at Kamenge Youth Centre north of Bujumbura. With the support of UNFPA, this centre offers sexual and reproductive health services to adolescents and youth. Radio Colombe, a radio station run by youth for youth and established with the help of UNFPA Burundi, informs young people about their health issues, in particular sexual and reproductive health. The programmes also promote social cohesion.

Radio Colombe gave Dr. Onabanjo an opportunity to send out a message to young people at, and she shared these words:

"My message to all of Burundi, and to young people in particular, who constitute the majority of the population at 65 per cent, is that young people must be educated and informed at an early age about everything that will contribute to their development and good health, in particular their sexual and reproductive health, so that they can use this information to later make good choices that will contribute to their development and that of their country.”

Dr. Onabanjo congratulated Burundi for being the first country in the ESA region to launch the African Union theme for 2017, ‘Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investments in youth’.

She said a country that does not invest in its youth would fail. She called on Burundi, and Africa in general, to invest in 10-year-old boys and girls, to educate and protect them from an early age, and help them to flourish.


Dr. Joseph Butore, Second Vice-President of Burundi, acknowledged the challenges that the country faces and presented the government's response. He said that one of the strategies adopted was to invest in young people, particularly in the promotion of  family planning and improvement of reproductive health services among adolescents and young people.

Meeting with Burundi President

Dr. Onabanjo was received by the President of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, whom she thanked for efforts undertaken to promote family planning.


Dr. Onabanjo also met the First Lady of Burundi and six key ministers, namely the Ministers of Foreigner Affairs, Health, Education, Good Governance and Planning, Youth and Gender. Discussions centred on population issues and how to improve conditions for women and young people, and thus propel the country towards a demographic dividend. This was also raised during meetings with representatives of UN agencies and key donors.