The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that more land are needed for camps for Burundian refugees as hundreds of Burundian refugees continue to flow into neighboring countries every week, a UN spokesman said here.
The UN agency “is today calling on host governments to urgently provide more land to ensure shelter and avert a drastic deterioration in conditions,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here.
The 2017 projections indicate that the number of refugees from Burundi will cross half a million, he noted.
“The pressure is most acute in Tanzania, but camps in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda have also reached or even surpassed their capacity,” Dujarric said.
The number of people fleeing Burundi, where peace talks have stalled, has been rising in the first weeks of the year, and the majority are women, children and individuals with specific needs, the UN agency said.
In early February, the number of Burundian refugees fleeing their country since April 2015 stood at 386,493. At present, Tanzania hosts 222,271, Rwanda has 84,866 and the Democratic Republic of Congo 32,650.
“Without allocation of new land to extend capacity in existing camps or build new ones, these countries will struggle to provide sufficient shelter and life-saving services in the camp sites,” UNHCR said in a press release.
“Camp facilities also need to be upgraded, including construction of more homes, schools, health centres and better drainage systems to lessen the risk of disease.”
The challenges and gaps due to the crowded conditions in existing camps include access to basic social services, provision of child protection, tackling sexual and gender-based violence, insufficient classrooms, averting absenteeism, helping people with special needs, the UN agency said. “The land shortages and rising number of arrivals exacerbate these problems.”
UNHCR has been working with the host governments to address the land issue and are impressed by their commitment, as well as their generosity, but more action is needed to avert a dangerous slide in standards and conditions, including relying on shrinking space to accommodate growing numbers, it said.
“At the same time, donor nations should help with stepped up assistance and funding,” said the UN agency. Last year, UNHCR received a vital 96.1 million U.S. dollars in contributions for the Burundi situation, or 53 percent of the amount requested.
Burundi has suffered turmoil since April 2015 when President Nkurunziza decided to run his controversial third term in violation of the national constitution and the 2000 Arusha Agreement that ended a decade-long civil war.
More than 500 people in Burundi have been killed since the outbreak of the crisis. Enditem