7 March 2016

East Africa: UNHCR Appeals for More Urgent Funding

The United Nations High Commission for Refuges (UNHCR) has appealed for more urgent funding for Burundian refugees that have so far shot to more than 250,000.

UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming announced the funding gap during a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.

She said UNHCR requested $175.1 million for the Burundi humanitarian response in 2016 and has to date received $4.7 million, or about only 3 per cent.

With tension remaining high in Burundi, the number of people who have sought shelter in neighboring states has now passed the 250,000 mark, the UN refugee agency notes, cautioning that people continue to flee and numbers could rise further.

Latest figures show that 250,473 people have been registered as refugees in DR Congo (21,186), Rwanda (73,926), Tanzania (131,834), Uganda (22,330), and Zambia (1,197) since early April last year, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans to run for a third term, which he later won.

The average rate of new arrivals per week is more than 1,000 in Tanzania, 500 in Uganda, 230 in Rwanda and 200 in DR Congo.

Fleming said there have been small numbers of spontaneous returns.

"Cool heads and continuing international attention are needed to avert further deterioration this year, and the right to leave the country and seek asylum should be respected," Fleming told a news briefing.

Despite recent high-level efforts to engage the government, we have not seen significant improvement in the security and human rights situation on the ground. The deteriorating economic situation is also a cause for concern which could trigger further displacement," she added.

Although there has been a slight lull in violence recently in Burundi, she announced, refugees arriving in the host countries continue to report human rights violations and difficulty in leaving Burundi while growing number of refugee reports about detention and sexual and gender-based violence in transit have been received.

Overcrowding is a problem in all host countries like Tanzania.

In Rwanda, close to 48,000 Burundian refugees are living in Mahama camp, the largest camp in Rwanda, and more than 26,400 in Kigali and other towns.

As the insecurity persists in Burundi they are running out of savings, which will increase their need for assistance.

Access to water continues to be a problem and UNHCR is delivering by truck in Nakivale of Uganda, which is costly and unsustainable.

The refugee agency said in some camps, the decongestion of the camp is a priority.

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