UNHCR seeks support for Burundian refugees
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for stronger international support for Burundian refugees and their host communities, as chronic underfunding severely hampers the humanitarian response in countries of asylum.
More than 420,000 Burundian refugees remain in dire need of humanitarian assistance and support in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania. As the number of Burundian refugees in host countries still remains high, it is vital that adequate resources are provided for ongoing life-saving humanitarian activities. A revised humanitarian funding appeal of US$429 million for Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries is only 19 per cent funded.
Underfunding has severely hampered reception capacities and strained asylum space, as well as the quality of protection rendered by host countries. Refugees continue to live in overcrowded and congested camps, facing insecurity, deterioration of emergency shelters, shortages of water and food, and oversubscribed health and education services. Provision of protection and assistance for Burundian refugees has not yet reached acceptable standards, despite efforts by the host government, UNHCR and partners.
Many refugee hosting areas are at risk of communicable diseases like malaria and acute watery diarrhoea. There is an urgent need to expand the availability and quality of health services, including the creation of new structures, hiring of well-trained staff, and procurement of equipment and medical supplies.
Underfunding for the World Food Programme (WFP) has forced the agency to cut monthly food rations to 60 per cent in Tanzania, which hosts the majority of Burundian refugees.
Only 56 per cent of identified survivors of sexual and gender-based violence have received comprehensive assistance and services.
Provision of water is adequate in only two of the four major asylum countries and only 17 per cent of refugees across the region have an upgraded family latrine.
Tents provided during the peak of the emergency are dilapidated and most families could not be supported with transitional shelters due to limited resources. In Rwanda, one third of some 88,000 refugees are still living under plastic sheeting, vulnerable to heavy rains and storms. Shelters need to be immediately built, upgraded and rehabilitated.
Tens of thousands of children have been enrolled in school but classrooms are overcrowded and additional schools and learning spaces are needed to decongest educational infrastructure.
While some returns of refugees are taking place, UNHCR is not promoting return to Burundi as conditions for large-scale organized repatriation are not yet in place. Burundian refugees are still in need of international protection and informal surveys indicate that the vast majority are not yet planning to return. However, UNHCR will continue to assist those refugees who have expressed a desire to voluntarily return home.
UNHCR also calls upon all governments to continue to maintain open borders for asylum-seekers from Burundi and to ensure there is no forced return.
It is vital that funding for the refugee response increases to benefit refugees and the communities that host them. It is also crucial that, in the context of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), additional funding is invested in refugee-hosting areas. This will support local governments to include refugees in their development plans.
Tanzania – which is formally applying the CRRF – is the largest host country for Burundian refugees, with 246,000. Another 88,000 are in Rwanda, 40,000 in DRC, 37,000 in Uganda, 7,000 in Kenya, and over 1,000 each in Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Geneva, Babar Baloch, [email protected], +41 79 513 9549