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Burundi is emerging from a long period of civil war in which sexual violence (SV) was used as a weapon. While available data are inadequate to estimate the prevalence of SV in post-conflict Burundi, they suggest that SV remains widespread. A 2007 study found that perpetrators now tend to be known to the survivor, rather than members of armed groups. Addressing SV is a priority of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Burundi. Not only is SV a concern as a human rights issue, it is also associated with HIV infection and other adverse health outcomes. According to the 2010 Burundi Demographic and Health Survey, the country faces a generalized HIV epidemic, with a national HIV prevalence of 1.4%. Prevalence is higher among women (1.7%) than among men (1.0%). Formative research conducted by RESPOND in 2011 and 2012 showed significant gaps in the response of the health sector toward SV survivors, inequitable gender norms that perpetuate SV, and barriers to the use of available services.

In partnership with the Ministry of Public Health and the Fight against AIDS (MSPLS), the RESPOND Project aims to improve efforts to prevent SV and to respond to SV survivors in two provinces of Burundi—Kayanza and Muyinga. The project seeks to achieve four main results:

1. Strengthen the health sector response for SV survivors
2. Advocate for policies and procedures to prevent SV and support survivors
3. Promote gender-equitable norms in the community to prevent SV and support survivors
4. Promote awareness of services and strengthen referral networks to increase survivors’ use of available services

Next Steps for FY 2012–2013
RESPOND and the MSPLS are working together to revise the national curriculum for provider training in SV care, to train health care providers, and to provide follow-up supervision. RESPOND also advocates for changes to health sector policies and procedures in the interest of improving the quality of health services for SV survivors. Further, RESPOND adapted EngenderHealth’s Men As Partners® (MAP) curriculum for use in Burundi. With training from RESPOND, local facilitators will use the curriculum to lead gender-transformative activities with small groups of men who work at mines and tea plantations. The objectives of the men’s MAP training are to encourage participants to engage in sexual activity only when sexual consent is clear, to resist social pressure to conform to inequitable gender norms that support violent behavior, and to challenge and prevent SV in their communities. In 2013, the project also will involve local leaders and health promoters in MAP activities focused on supporting SV survivors. In addition, RESPOND will build linkages among services across sectors through coordination meetings for organizations and institutions that support survivors. An end-of-project documentation exercise will be completed for RESPOND’s work in Burundi in Summer 2013.

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Photo credits: M. Tuschman/EngenderHealth; A. Fiorente/EngenderHealth; C. Svingen/EngenderHealth.

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