ESCALATING political violence in the East African nation of Burundi is fueling a refugee crisis in neighbouring countries as hundreds of thousands of people flee, pushing resources in the region to breaking point.
Since unrest began in April 2015, 110,000 refugees – the majority of them children – have fled to two refugee camps in Tanzania, Nyarugusu and Nduta. Both camps are overcrowded, placing children at risk of infections, disease, abuse and neglect.
Nyarugusu camp is now the world’s third largest refugee camp, with a total population of over 154,000, including Burundian and Congolese refugees.
Camps in neighbouring Rwanda are also under enormous pressure as the sheer number of refugees continues to grow. Since April 2015, 75,000 Burundi refugees have fled to Rwanda.
“I was in Rwanda in the mid-1990s and saw the sort of unbearable human misery this sort of violence and the ensuing chaos can bring upon people who are forced to flee” said Ian Wishart, CEO of Plan International Australia.
“We are gravely concerned for the children caught up in this crisis. Around 60 per cent of the refugees who have arrived in Tanzania are children, and one in three of the unaccompanied and separated children are under 12 years old,” added Mr Wishart.
Plan International has been appointed to run child protection services in Nduta camp, which opened in early October 2015, and the recently opened Mtendeli camp. Nduta camp already has more than 25,000 refugees.
The Tanzanian rainy season has begun and the top health conditions at the camps are malaria and diarrhoea, which will only get worse as areas flood and tents and toilets are damaged by heavy rains. This situation could also lead to a cholera outbreak in the camps, especially as there are known outbreaks in Burundi as well as several areas in Tanzania.
Plan International is calling for donors to urgently increase funding for Burundian refugees, the response is currently 64 per cent underfunded. Donations can be made through our website at: plan.org.au/childrenincrisis
The crisis in Burundi escalated following President Pierre Nkurunziza’s disputed bid for a third consecutive term in office. President Nkurunziza rejected an African Union peacekeeping intervention on 6th January 2016, and has refused to take part in peace negotiations. Since April 2015, the UN estimates at least 400 people have been killed in Burundi.
Source: Plan International