UN struggling to meet Burundian refugees' basic needs

With a political crisis having been ongoing in Burundi for one year, the UN refugee agency is struggling to provide basic necessities to refugees from the country

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Burundian refugees gather on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Kagunga village in the Kigoma region in western Tanzania, as they wait for MV Liemba to transport them to Kigoma township, May 17, 2015.

The political crisis in Burundi continues to deepen, as the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) struggles to provide basic necessities to refugees who have fled the small Central African country.

The UNHCR said, "We are struggling to provide even the basics such as shelter, household items, and latrines" in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Charles Yaxley, the UNHCR communications officer, said that the organisation is finding it difficult to provide specialised counseling such as care for the disabled and elderly and even primary healthcare.

The UN refugee agency seeks $175.1 million for its operations in Burundi this year. But Yaxley said, "We have only received $47.8 million to date and it’s absolutely not sufficient to deliver the much-needed humanitarian assistance."

Since the political crisis began in Burundi in April 2015 approximately 260,000 people have fled the country, according the UNCHR, fearing a possible genocide. The a cycle of violence began when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced his decision to seek a third term, despite a constitutional two-term limit.

The number of refugees has been increaing with each passing day, with Yaxley saying, "Thousands more could join them over the rest of the year unless a political solution is found and a descent into civil war is averted."

Many Burundian refugees report suffering serious human right abuses suchs as torture, sexual violence and killings according to Yaxley.

Neighbouring Tanzania hosts more than 136,000 refugees from Burundi - more than any other country. The country’s Nyarugusu camp is one of the largest refugee camps in the world, hosting more than 140,000 people.

Rwanda also hosts a significant number of refugess from Burundi. Most of the refugees in Rwanda are being settled at the Mahama camp in the country’s eastern province. The camp is home to more than 48,000 people, nearly half of whom are children.

Then protests erupted across Burundi, demanding Nkurunziza to step down after his victory in disputed election in July 2015.

More than 400 people have been killed so far and about 3,500 people arrested in land-locked country under the government crackdown since April last year.

TRTWorld and agencies