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For teachers - ages 12-14 Geography: Student Activity Sheet 1: Population and Areas of Rwandan Refugee Camps, Kagera Region, Tanzania, Late 1996

Teaching Tools, 3 April 2007

The information which follows was extracted from a report written by two environmental experts working for UNHCR, in December 1996, just a couple of weeks before the masses of Rwandan refugees, who had been living in the Kagera region of Tanzania, returned to Rwanda.

As at November 1996, the Kagera Region of Tanzania hosted 617,000 refugees from Rwanda and Burundi, located in 11 main camps in the three neighbouring Districts of Ngara, Karagwe and Biharamulo, where they made up 45% of the overall population.

Table 1 summarises the camp populations and areas in Ngara District.

Table 1: Camp Populations and Areas (October 1996)

District Camp

(people/ ha)

Ngara Benaco 159,879 586 273
Lumasi 113,713 1,354 84
Msuhura 80,797 1,050 77
Keza 40,396 2,465 30
Lukole 20,459 1,493 14

Note that the three largest camps (Benaco, Lumasi and Msuhura) also had the highest population densities, bringing a number of problems with energy supply and environmental degradation.

Question 1

Which camp was the most crowded? How do you know?

Question 2

What problems might high population density cause in the camps of Benaco, Lumasi and Msuhura? Think about your answers and write a couple of sentences under each of the following headings:

  • Health
  • Water
  • Cooking fuel (domestic energy)
  • Soil erosion
  • Social conflicts

To get an idea of the crowded living conditions in a refugee camp like Benaco, imagine 273 people living, working, cooking, eating, sleeping, bathing, excreting everything in one hectare, a space the size of two football fields.

For the sake of comparison, Table 2 provides population, area and density figures for three major cities of the world.

Table 2: Major Cities of the World Populations, Areas and Densities (1991)



Tokyo 8,400,000 57,800 145
New York 7,400,000 78,200
excluding inland waterways
Mexico City 10,300,000 150,000 69

These huge cities, with vast areas of high rise apartments, have population densities similar to some refugee camps, which are made up of individual huts. Just imagine how close together those refugees must be living!