UNHCR appeals for US$391 million for 'forgotten' Burundi refugees

Low levels of funding mean support efforts in neighbouring countries fall short of acceptable standards.

Families who fled Burundi queue to board buses bound for Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda.
© UNHCR/Anthony Karumba

GENEVA – UNHCR launched an appeal today for US$391 million to support 430,000 Burundian refugees this year, saying more cash was urgently needed to prevent it becoming a forgotten crisis.

The UN Refugee Agency said in a statement the appeal, backed by 26 UNHCR partners, was necessary to assist refugees struggling to survive in neighbouring countries where efforts were falling short of “acceptable humanitarian standards”.

“Low levels of humanitarian funding for this crisis remains a great concern,” it said. “Burundian refugees could get a mere 21 per cent of the required funds – making it the world’s least funded refugee response plan.”

The statement called for the pursuit of efforts to find a “genuine and lasting resolution” to the Burundi crisis.

“Food rations were cut in many of the neighbouring countries.”

Launching the appeal, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said many important needs had not been met because of a shortfall in contributions.

“Food rations were cut in many of the neighbouring countries,” he said. “Women that are exposed to violence, often, in this tense context could not be provided with the necessary support … and therefore continued to suffer from sexual and gender-based violence in spite of efforts.”

Since 2015, more than 400,000 refugees and asylum-seekers have fled Burundi.

Grandi said the appeal was designed to remember “one of the most forgotten refugee crises in the world”, adding: “For the moment, the conditions are still fragile, so support to host countries continues to be a priority that I hope the world will not forget.”

Since 2015, more than 400,000 refugees and asylum-seekers have fled Burundi, escaping human rights abuses, political uncertainty and the related humanitarian crisis.

Regional efforts to resolve the political crisis in the country have made no significant progress and refugee numbers are expected to increase by more than 50,000 this year.

Tanzania is hosting the largest number of Burundians with 254,000 refugees, while 89,000 are in Rwanda with another 44,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and some 40,000 in Uganda. Smaller refugee numbers have also fled to Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa.