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Home » Child/Adolescent Mental Health » Who’s At Risk? » Refugees » Burundi


Burundi is a small landlocked country in Africa about the size of Massachusetts.  Burundi people have experienced a tumultuous history of war and violence due to ethnic tensions between two major tribes, the Tutsi and the Hutu. Due to Burundi’s political and economic instability, it remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

Many Burundi people have lived their entire lives under unstable governments, discrimination, and violence.  Many were forced to flee their homes and live in refugee camps in neighboring countries.  Some Burundi sought asylum in the United States.  Over 100 Burundi refugees live in Vermont today.

The nation’s official languages are Kirundi and French.  Kirundi, a Bantu language, is an every day conversation language while French is generally used in government and business settings.

Christianity is the religion of the majority (about 62% ) of Burundians.  Other religions are Protestant and Muslim.  Many people who consider themselves Christian or Muslim also incorporate traditional indigenous beliefs into their practice.

Traditional healers are common in Burundi and many people turn to them to solve and alleviate issues of physical and mental health.  However, mental health issues are often minimized and access to support and treatment is limited.  It is not uncommon for Burundi people to stigmatize others in their community who exhibit signs of mental health problems.

According to a 2004 study by the World Bank Human Development Network on Health, Nutrition, and Population, many Burundis have experienced symptoms of depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.  The trauma the Burundi people have experienced from their country’s civil war has led to pervasive fear and anxiety in segments of the refugee population.


Burundi: Cultural Considerations in working with Burundi Refugees