Grief engulfed the Gihembe Refugee Camp in Gicumbi District when three children fell into a gully surrounding the camp.
The deceased identified as Ngabire Muhoza, Denise Mujawambere and Paul
Mugisha fell into the gully, last week, as they collected mud to plaster their parents’ houses.
According to some refugees who spoke to The New Times, four people, last year, died in a similar way.
The gullies were created as refugees excavated for soil to put up their flagging mud and wattle houses.
They said the gullies were made worse by running rain water from the camp.
Among other challenges highlighted, the refugees cited over-congestion, with a one-roomed house accommodating over eight family members and poor feeding.
The camp accommodates over 19,000 Congolese refugees.
A World Food Programme Official at the camp, Viateur Ngirawonsa, said there was an alarming maize shortage.
Previously, each refugee used to get 11 kilograms of maize but this ration has since been reduced to seven kilograms, which the refugees claim is not enough for a month.
The refugees also claim that many HIV infected individuals were dying due to poor nutrition.
According to a survey conducted by local officials, over 10 percent of refugees at the camp are infected.
When contacted, the head of UNHCR field office in Byumba, Richard Ndaula, said his office in collaboration with the government is doing its best to solve the issues within the camp.
“This issue is now a shared responsibility of local authorities and UNHCR, we are making a joint effort to tackle it,” said Ndaula in exclusive interview.
He disclosed that UNHCR has raised US$75,000 to respond to the gully issue; however, he added that the amount is insufficient.
“We and the ministry of natural resources have developed an idea of hiring environmental experts to work on the plan through the Rwanda Environment Management Authority,” Ndaula said.
He called on the refugees to take parental responsibility by preventing their children from playing around the gullies. He observed that the local authorities have been directed to fence it off as a temporary measure.
On the issue of the accommodation, he said there is insufficient space for expansion.
“We realise the overcrowding problem, but currently, the government is facing land shortage, otherwise we would put a fourth camp,” he said.