As the World celebrates World Refugee day on June 20, 2016, we are reminded that around the world, millions of people have been displaced by conflicts and persecutions. Their numbers are growing and accelerating, every single day, on every continent.
Yet, even as this tragedy and many others unfold, some of the countries that are most able to help are shutting their gates to people seeking asylum. Borders are closing, push-backs are increasing, and hostility is rising. Avenues for legitimate escape are fading away. And humanitarian organizations like OXFAM run on shoestring budgets, unable to meet the spiraling needs of such a massive population fleeing from crises around the world.
“The most vulnerable of them (refugees) —women, children, the elderly— can’t go back, but don’t have the resources or support to live properly where they are. They need help moving forward to a better future.” Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, OXFAM International. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 267,644 people have fled Burundi since violence erupted in 2015 due to political turmoil. More than 49,000 Burundian refugees are now living in the Mahama Camp, the largest refugee camp in Rwanda, which opened in April 2015. Refugees are continuing to arrive since the situation in Burundi remains tense and unpredictable.
In collaboration with UNHCR and the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) in Rwanda, and with support from donors namely, the Department for International Development (DFID), and the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) and UNHCR, OXFAM has been able to implement a humanitarian response to the Burundi refugee crisis in Mahama camp providing safe, clean water for up to 50,000 beneficiaries. OXFAM’s intervention in Mahama is contributing to improve lives of refugees from Burundi by reducing the vulnerabilities and suffering of refugees through provision of basic wash needs and essential services.
Behind OXFAM’s work and interventions, there are always stories of people like you and me. One of those stories is Richard’s. Richard fled to Rwanda with his daughter of four and three of his younger siblings when insecurity broke in Burundi. He has no news of his wife and had to interrupt his university studies. While in the camp, he courageously learned new skills of masonry and construction and, luckily he started working in block and hangars construction in the camp. Richard is now one of OXFAM’s WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) volunteer committee members. This is one among thousands of other stories of despair, hopelessness, life shuttering and the list goes on…
OXFAM in Rwanda remains committed to respond to the needs of the Burundian refugees to ensure they are able to live a life of dignity with safe access to sufficient water to meet their daily needs.