UNHCR works to improve aid to refugees amid new arrivals in Burundi
BUJUMBURA, Burundi, June 29 (UNHCR) - Burundi has received its biggest group of Congolese refugees in recent days amid reports of renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Meanwhile, UNHCR is stepping up efforts to improve conditions for recent arrivals near the shared border.
On Monday, 238 Congolese refugees crossed into Burundi after fleeing reported fighting in eastern DRC. UNHCR registered and moved them to three transit centres in the border region - Rugombo, Gatumba and Cibitoke - where the refugee agency and its partners have completed the distribution of food, blankets, jerry cans and other relief items.
UNHCR estimates that some 34,000 Congolese refugees have arrived in western Burundi since June 9.
The agency has sent a six-member emergency team, deployed from its Geneva headquarters and other operations, to the border zone to improve conditions at the transit sites. Among its first tasks, the team will work on starting education programmes and recreational activities for the refugee children.
UNHCR is also helping some of the young refugees to take their end-of-year exams in Burundi so that they will not lose school year credits because they were forced to flee the DRC. On Sunday, 377 primary schools students were taken from the transit centres to the capital, Bujumbura, to sit for the exams. More than 200 secondary school students are expected to follow in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the search continues for alternative accommodation away from the border. On Tuesday, a team comprising staff of UNHCR, the World Food Programme and the Burundian government visited a third proposed site in Rutana, eastern Burundi, after which they will conclude their site evaluation.
In neighbouring Rwanda, 78 Congolese refugees who had fled fighting around Bukavu in late May and early June returned to their homes in the DRC on Monday. This brings to 472 the total number of returnees assisted by UNHCR and its partners, who provide transportation to home areas.
An estimated 3,500 Congolese refugees remain in Rwanda after the recent influx. They include 1,320 living at the Nyagatare transit centre and some 2,200 living with family and friends in Cyangugu.