is fundamentally connected to peace. Just as the lack of health and
human security was a root cause of Burundi’s
civil war, the fulfillment of health and human security is a root
The end of Burundi’s civil war has seen a massive influx of
conflict resolution and general development aid. Literally millions
of dollars are currently being poured into the country by foreign donors.
While local conflict resolution actors, such as the AGLI supported
program HROC, have worked in Kamenge, very little international aid
intended for work in HIV/AIDS, public health, or food security has
reached the Kamenge people, in part because donors still deem it too “insecure” to
Yet this supposed “insecurity” is exactly why the Friends
Women’s Association believes that it should be working in Kamenge.
The people of Kamenge
face many interconnected challenges in the post-conflict environment.
Among these are HIV/AIDS, food insecurity, lack of access
to potable water, no healthcare, stigmatization, sexual violence, and
deep psychosocial trauma from the years of war. Amidst Burundi’s
relative peace today, Burundians—especially the people of Kamenge—recognize
the extreme consequences the war had and has on their lives and well-being.
Nonetheless, these challenges are like open-wounds and stress fractures
lying just beneath the surface. If they are not cared for, they can
infect and/or break, especially if exposed to the right political instigation.
Peace should not
be viewed as just the end of armed conflict. Rather it is the series
of sustained actions which build and maintain trust,
safety, and personal security in people’s lives. Without these
elements, the seeds of instability and conflict continue to grow and
Yet many people like to divide health, peace, gender, poverty, etc.,
into their own individual categories. Doctors treat disease. Peaceworkers
mediate conflict. Women work against sexual violence and aid workers
distribute food. However, the reality is that if peace is viewed as
not just the end of armed conflict, but the creation and sustainability
of a society where the root causes of conflict are eliminated, it is
impossible to separate these categories as such. They are deeply interconnected.
For example, to provide quality medical care, it is also necessary
to address poverty. A doctor cannot care for a patient if the patient
cannot afford the necessary medications. Similarly, it is dangerous
for both the patient and the community if a patient can only afford
to buy part of the treatment regimen as this builds up resistance to
the most effective medications for that disease. Medications and treatment
also do no good if a person develops side effects from lack of food,
such as vomiting from taking medication on an empty stomach, which
is common occurrence among poor HIV+ patients in Kamenge.
In the same vein, addressing healthcare and poverty must also address
gender-inequality. Take this story from the FWA clinic as an example:
One day a woman
came into the FWA clinic and tested positive for HIV. During the
course of her counseling session, it was revealed that she
was the fourth wife to her husband. All three of his prior wives had
died of HIV-related complications, yet her husband had never been tested
for HIV. The clinic staff eventually persuaded the husband to come
in for testing and, indeed, he was HIV positive. An international volunteer
at the clinic during this time then asked the clinic’s staff
how the man was still alive when three of his wives had already died
from HIV. They responded, “In a poor family in Burundi, it is
the men who get the milk, meat, and medicines.”
To truly address the root causes of conflict and work towards sustainable
peace, the interconnected challenges of a population must be addressed
The Friends Women’s Association believes that health is the
best entry point to meet the challenges faced by Kamenge. In line with
the belief that health, poverty, gender, and peace are interconnected,
we define health as not just the absence of physical disease, but the
whole well-being of body, mind, and spirit of both individuals and
our community. We, therefore, provide medical care in addition to adherence
support, psychological counseling, community trauma healing, nutritional
support, micro-credit loans, and women’s empowerment programs.
Our work is on the long road of peace.
Community Peace and Health Model