A peer educator’s mission to support people who use drugs in Burundi

Murielle Harushamagara stands next to a woman in front of a sign © AMBPD
Murielle Harushamagara (right) works as a peer educator supporting people who use drugs at the Nyumviriza Centre in Burundi

Support Don’t Punish is a global day of action in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. To mark the day, we spoke to Mimi Harushamagara, a peer educator in Burundi, whose work with people who use drugs is changing lives.

My name is Mimi Harushamagara, I’m a community mobiliser at the Nyumviriza Centre in Bujumbura, Burundi. I’ve been working as peer educator since 2022.

Most of our clients are living on the streets. We provide services, but they also require shelter and food.

At the centre, we have two sections: one for the community where people who use drugs can speak to a social assistant, the other is the medical section for treatments and counselling services.

There is also a special unit for women who use drugs where they can get support for gender-based violence. Clients can also relax with games as they wait to be seen or access trainings for manual jobs.

Clients who come to the centre, access services and spend the day together, which can reduce their daily drugs intake.

Previously, the relationship between peer educators and the police wasn’t good. The police didn’t understand our work in the community, so we organised a meeting to explain our work, which has helped improve the situation.

I hope that we can grow like other clinics. For example, the Mewa Mombasa rehabilitation centre in Kenya provides a range of services. We would like to do something similar and to open more branches so that we can help our clients. We also need materials for outreach work such as back packs, safety boots, umbrellas, hats and hard gloves to collect used injecting equipment at the field.

The centre is situated a little bit far for some people who use drugs. Travelling is expensive because of the high cost of fuel, so buying our own vehicle to bring clients to and from the centre would also help.

I like what I do. As a former drug user my goal is to make sure that everyone can access services.

I like working with other peer educators, I love how we understand each other.

The Nyumvira Project is managed by Frontline AIDS, implemented by Alliance Burundaise and Association Burundaise pour un Monde de Paix sans Drogues and funded by Expertise France.


Harm reductionHIV prevention