People are more than an asterisk!

There’s an asterisk on the official stats for Burundi – just to let you know that the population estimates of 10,395,931 “explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS… higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex” than you’d otherwise expect.

All that suffering, neatly tied up in an asterisk.

So where do you start in a country that is officially the hungriest on the planet? In a country that has been ravaged by two genocides and prolonged civil war? In a nation where 80% live in poverty?

Metamorphic doesn’t engage in relief work. Rather, our aim is to empower others to take ownership of their community issues and develop strategic and sustainable plans to address these.

So Metamorphic started with identifying and training community leaders in targeted areas of the landlocked central African nation. In the past six months, those leaders have begun implementing community projects such as:

  • cleaning of roads in Burbanza,
  • the provision of food to vulnerable patients in Makamba and Bujumbura hospitals
  • market cleaning and the repair of a bridge in Rutana, and
  • garbage collection in Bujumbura rural areas.

Another major project, just getting underway, is establishing a pharmacy that maintains a consistent and affordable supply of medicines. The initial stock of medicines, diagnostic and refrigeration equipment were purchased in the first half of 2014… we’ll keep you posted.

In the past six months, free anti-retroviral meds have been provided to 50 HIV/AIDS patients, while another 100 have received counselling. Mobile health clinics have been established and so far sent to 33 communities.

In the past six months, Metamorphic and its partners have also moved 33 children out of orphanages – which are almost endemic in Burundi – and into families, where there is a greater capacity for their physical and emotional needs to be met, and for them to develop the social networks necessary for them to have a healthy and balanced future.

Importantly, these families are supported by 15 caseworkers, who check on progress and provide planning, care and counselling.

There have been – and continue to be – challenges in Burundi. The Multi-Care Health Centre is struggling to pay wages for its medical staff; additional medicines are required for the opportunistic diseases that accompany HIV/AIDS; and the ATO has put a stop to the donation of medicines from DWB, severely impacting the ability to provide medicines to people living with HIV/AIDS.

But there are also success stories.

One of the training course students initiated a community job search program. To date, he’s worked with six jobless young men. Two of them were also drug addicts. He arranged counselling sessions for the two addicts – they’ve now been clean for more than three months and all six have carpentry jobs.

Another student is directly engaging gangs in his community. He’s provided training and assistance in establishing a brick firing business so that they can now live and become self-supporting, without stealing from their neighbours. A local church is providing follow-up, to help with the transition from gang members to functioning citizens.

With the exception of the leadership training programs, all the Burundi projects are being entirely run by the in-country partner, their staff and the project beneficiaries. Self-sustainability is a core focus.

So, it is a start. A small start, when you look at the overwhelming number of Burundians living in unacceptable poverty but significant, nevertheless, for those removed from inclusion in that deadly asterisk on Burundi’s population statistics.

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