Rwanda braces for influx of Burundians fleeing famine

Rwanda will be on the alert to deal with a possible influx of refugees from Burundi reported to be fleeing from a famine that has hit the Northern part of the country.

Rwanda will be on the alert to deal with a possible influx of refugees from Burundi reported to be fleeing from a famine that has hit the Northern part of the country.

Reports indicate that at least two people have died of starvation and more than 15,000 have fled their homes in Northeast Burundi because of a severe drought.

In an interview with AFP, the Governor of Kirundo Province, Juvenal Muvunyi, confirmed fears that more people could flee the province that borders the Southern part of Rwanda in the wake of the life threatening famine.

"The inhabitants of Kirundo have been confronted by famine for the past two months because of a severe drought,” Muvunyi told the French press agency.

In an Interview with The New Times, Local Government Minister, James Musoni, said that currently there are no ‘abnormal movements’ across the Rwandan borders but the district of Gisagara and Gisagara continue to register movements.

“All we can say, up to today, there are normal cross-border movements. No sign of an emergency yet or an established camp to harbour the refugees. Usually these movements are people coming to look for work or visit relatives.”

The Governor of the Southern Province, Fidele Ndayisaba, said that they were aware of the developments on the Burundian side and Rwanda would be on the alert.

“We heard about this problem on the Burundian side. We almost had the same problem on the Rwandan side as it was equally facing a drought, but we moved fast to calm the situation by assuring people that there was no need to panic,” he said.

He however added that the problem has persisted on the Burundian side of the border according to the information from the Governor of Kirundo Province.

“We heard about the Kirundo Governor calling for intervention and help to avert the situation but todate there are no special movements so far,” he said.

According to Ndayisaba, areas neighbouring Burundi, especially, the districts of Nyanza and Gisagara, have been experiencing dry spells but quick government interventions in the area have restored food security, hence restricting movements of people.

Ndayisaba said that the Province is currently moving to avert a looming famine crisis following floods that washed away about 200 hectares of marshland rice in Gisagara district, prompting major losses to the farmers and a possible famine.

Kirundo, which lies some 230 kilometres (143 miles) north east of the capital Bujumbura, used to be known as the bread basket of Burundi, but for the past 10 years, it has been subject to cyclical food shortages caused by droughts.

About 800 families with about 4,000 people from Busoni are reported to have fled their homes and about 100,000 are reported to be affected by severe hunger.

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