The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and partner agencies have made an international appeal for $429 million (approx. Rwf360bn) to help meet the needs of Burundian refugees across the region.
There are over 400,000 Burundians displaced across the region in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the political crisis started in 2015.
In a statement, Catherine Wiesner, the UNHCR Regional Refugee Coordinator for Burundi said that of the requested amount, only 12 per cent 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 Wiesner.
In Mahama 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, said the statement.
This, Wiesner said that many refugee hosting areas are at risk of communicable diseases including malaria and acute watery diarrhea.
Janet Pima, the UNHCR’s Protection Officer in Mahama explained that funding is a major challenge in terms of being able to construct shelters and respond to all the needs of Burundian refugees since they keep receiving new arrivals, which increases the needs every day.
Pima also added that there is another issue of limited space and this will hinder them from relocating any new arrivals until there is an extension of the camp.
“We have around 54,000 refugees in the camp and the space we have has already been occupied by semi-permanent shelters. We don’t have any more space, therefore, we will not be able to relocate any new arrivals until we have an extension of the camp hence new arrivals have to wait for weeks, sometimes months, before they can be relocated,” She explained.
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 the already strained resources.
The organization continues to work with the government and partner agencies to receive and care for new arrivals despite the challenges, but the need for more support is crucial.