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Tanzania - Urgent efforts underway as seven Burundians die in diarrhoea outbreak in refugee camp

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Tanzania - Urgent efforts underway as seven Burundians die in diarrhoea outbreak in refugee camp

17 May 2015

The UN refugee agency is taking urgent measures, in collaboration with authorities in Tanzania, to contain the spread of a severe watery diarrhoea outbreak among newly arrived Burundian refugees in Tanzania, as seven people have been reported dead since Wednesday. Two specimens have preliminary been diagnosed as cholera, but we are awaiting official confirmation from a reference laboratory.

Another 77 Burundians in Nyarugusu - in the western province of Kigoma - are being treated for severe watery diarrhoea. Some 300 people are being treated for watery diarrhoea at Kagunga - near the Tanzanian border - and at the Stadium in Kigoma.

"UNHCR's priority is to work with the Ministry of Health and international partners to prepare for the worst and quickly establish a cholera treatment centre in Kagunga," said Joyce Mends-Cole, UNHCR Representative in Tanzania. "There is only a small dispensary in that village, lacking required diagnostics and treatment modalities - including medication," she added. The UN refugee agency is also flying in urgently needed medication, to supplement what can be found locally.

Kagunga is a small village surrounded by a steep mountain range on the Tanzanian side and is best accessible by boat. Since Burundian refugees started to arrive in Kagunga early May, UNHCR has moved them by boat to Kigoma and from there to the refugee camp in Nyarugusu. Over 20,000 refugees have either been moved to, or arrived at the refugee camp.

Meanwhile, UNHCR is taking urgent preventative measures to improve sanitation, hygiene and early detection, as well as a hygiene promotion information campaign. The agency has also stepped up efforts to move refugees out of Kagunga, by hiring a second boat and collaborating with regional authorities and the International Organization for Migration to support the clearing of a path and the setting up of a way station along a mountain track that would allow refugees to leave Kagunga on foot.

In Tanzania, the number of refugees arriving in Kagunga has risen sharply over the last few days and the living conditions have become extremely dire. Local immigration authorities reported that over 50,000 Burundians were living rough in Kagunga on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. UNHCR has removed several thousand by boat already. In total more than 70,000 Burundian refugees have arrived in Tanzania since unrest started in Burundi early April.

For more information please contact:

  • In Dar es Salaam, Stephen Mhando on mobile +255 784 730 424 email [email protected]
  • In Nairobi, Teresa Ongaro on mobile +254 735 337 608
  • In Geneva, Karin de Gruijl +41 79 255 9213