UNHCR launches urgent appeal to help Burundian refugees

On 4 October 2017 at 08:04

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and partner agencies have launched an urgent appeal for US$429 million to help meet the needs of Burundian refugees across the region.

Of the requested amount, only 12 per cent funding has been received, making the Burundi situation one of the least funded refugee crises in the world.

“The chronic underfunding for the Burundi refugee situation has severely hampered reception capacities and the quality of protection rendered by host countries,” said Catherine Wiesner, UNHCR’s Regional Refugee Coordinator for Burundi at the launch of the revised inter-agency regional refugee response plan in Kenya.

According to Wiesner, 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.

“Many refugee hosting areas are at risk of communicable diseases, including, malaria and acute watery diarrhea”, Wiesneradded.

In Mahama, Burundian Refugee camp in Rwanda, the impact of the huge gap in funding is evident as UNHCR and aid agencies struggle to meet minimum standards for refugees.

“Funding is a major challenge in terms of being able to construct shelters and respond to all the needs of Burundian refugees,” says Janet Pima, UNHCR’s Protection Officer in Mahama.

“Because we keep on receiving new arrivals that means the needs are increasing every day,” Pima added

UNHCR says that in Rwanda, more than 85,000 refugees both in cities and in the camp. Such numbers place a huge strain on resources and Mahama camp is already at breaking point.

“We have around 54,000 refugees in the camp and the space we have has already been occupied by semi-permanent shelters,” Pima said.

“We don’t have any more space which is the main challenge we have for now. We will not be able to relocate any new arrivals until we have an extension of the camp” Pima added

According to Pima, new arrivals have to wait for weeks, sometimes months, before they can be relocated.

“UNHCR is negotiating with the Rwandan government and local communities that own the land around the camp. However, with every refugee that enters the country, more pressure is added to already strained resources,” Pima explained

Pima says that if they don’t get the space soon, refugees will be congested in the shelters or will have to remain in the reception centres for a long time
“We are appealing for more funding to help Burundian refugees,” Pima added.

Mahama Refugee Camp