EDITORIAL: Region should help ease refugee burden

The tide of refugees fleeing unrest in Burundi has overshot the 100,000th mark and there no signs of it ebbing.

The tide of refugees fleeing unrest in Burundi has overshot the 100,000th mark and there no signs of it ebbing.

Tanzania alone has over 70,000 while Rwanda has, to date, slightly over 26,000 and still counting with the rest having sought shelter in DR Congo.

Hosting a large number of impromptu refugees has its own challenges as Tanzania is experiencing at the moment. It has not managed to keep up with the sanitation hurdle, and this week’s cholera outbreak has already claimed 17 lives.

While Rwanda has announced that it can handle 50,000 (besides the 70,000 or so largely Congolese refugees who have spent years in the country), there are fears that the number could be surpassed in the near future if the Burundi crisis is not quelled soon.

That is why calls for other countries to help absorb the refugees should be heeded. Rwanda has even offered to act as a transit point for Burundian refugees seeking shelter in other countries.

This region has a history of offering sanctuary and it is not now that countries can fail the people of Burundi because our prospects are interlinked. Tomorrow, what is happening in Burundi could befall any other country.

While diplomacy is working in the background – and from experience it is bound to drag on if practical and definitive measures are not taken to return peace in Burundi – the exodus of refugees is bound to increase.

In the meantime, the little we can do is to open our doors to our brothers and sisters and ease their suffering.

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