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Funding: Burundi repatriation/reintegration operation at risk

Briefing notes

Funding: Burundi repatriation/reintegration operation at risk

28 October 2005

We are running rapidly out of funds for one of our biggest voluntary repatriation operations worldwide and the largest in Africa. Unless we receive money immediately, we will have no choice but to reduce or even suspend the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Burundian refugees from Tanzania. We will also no longer be able to support reintegration activities for returnees within Burundi.

Out of the $62 million we needed and appealed for in order to finance the Burundi repatriation operation this year, we have received only $29 million - a shortfall of some 52 percent. We have, in fact, already run out of money from the appeal and are currently using emergency funds from our operational reserve in order to continue our activities. We will not, however, be able to rely on such sources for more than a few weeks.

This funding crisis could not come at a more critical time for the operation and the region. After many ups and downs, Burundi's political transition, begun in 2001, came to a peaceful resolution with the election of President Pierre Nkurunziza in August of this year. His taking office triggered a remarkable increase in the number of Burundian refugees returning home. Since August, between 12,000 and 15,000 people have been repatriating every month, most of them from neighbouring Tanzania. Most of the refugees have been in Tanzania since the mid-1990s, but some go back to the early 1970s.

The new Burundian government faces enormous challenges: the reconstruction of homes and infrastructures, the creation of health and education facilities and achieving a stable peace, as well as reintegrating hundreds of thousands of returning refugees and internally displaced people. This year, we had committed to build almost 23,000 homes, 48 schools with a total of 245 classrooms and 14 health centres. Because of lack of funds, we have had to revise these numbers to 43 schools and 11 health centres but if the current financial crisis continues we will have to stop all building programmes. Income-generating activities and professional training programmes benefiting some 10,000 people will also be suspended.

Some 285,000 Burundians have returned home since 2001 - 58,000 of them since the beginning of this year. Nevertheless, Tanzania is still home to more than 400,000 Burundian refugees - as well as some 150,000 Congolese. Having to announce a suspension of the voluntary repatriation because of lack funds could only send an unwelcome message at a sensitive time for a country that has shouldered an enormous burden and shown great generosity towards refugees over the years.