Beneficiaries in disarray after Handicap International closes Burundi program

Handicap International, a foreign NGO which operates in Burundi since 1992, has been forced to stop its activities in the country because of the recent decisions of the Burundian government towards foreign NGOs.

“Handicap International does not intend to be involved in any form of
ethnic discrimination”

“Committed to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, Handicap International considers that the obligation to establish the ethnic composition of its personnel and communicate this information to the authorities constitutes a red line that it does not intend to cross,” reads the press release.

This organization says it ignores the motivation behind the ethnic identification process Burundian authorities have obliged them to follow. “It may be a prerequisite for measures we do not know at this stage the scope. Handicap International does not intend to be involved in any form of ethnic discrimination”.

Nadia Uwimana, chairperson of the Association of women with disabilities says it is a great loss for the whole community and mainly for people living with disabilities. “Handicap International has helped in different areas of people living with disabilities. It has helped us feel self-confident, sensitized to our rights and pushed us to be autonomous, but unfortunately, it leaves an unfinished work”.

Mrs. Uwimana says there is a number of local associations that were assisted by this NGO and its closure will negatively affect them. “People living with disabilities were moving forward thanks to many programs that were run by this NGO. They must be negatively affected”.

A representative of one Centre specialized in training and physical rehabilitation of disabled children complains about the closure as well. “The decision to close is somehow an unexpected decision and it must affect the whole sector of the handicapped people”.

This representative says this foreign NGO was the only one to intervene in this sector. “Handicap International gives us a number of services, materials and sustains many programs”. He says the NGO supplies objects used to make prostheses, facilitates training workshops for technicians who make these prostheses, supports pilot schools to promote inclusive education…

He also says this organization helped people living with disabilities who are unable to get appropriate medical care to be treated.

The government of Burundi suspended the actions of all international NGOs present in Burundi on October 1, 2018. The primary condition for the foreign NGOs to resume their activities is, among other things, to present a plan that set up ethnic quotas for their staff.

Burundi government has called on all suspended NGOs to re-register so as to restart their activities in Burundi, but unfortunately, some of these NGOs failed to comply with the new Burundi regulation on these foreign NGOs.