Nairobi/Geneva 23 May 2015 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is deeply concerned about the current situation in Burundi and its humanitarian consequences in the country and region.
Pre-election tension and violence have intensified in recent weeks in Burundi, resulting in a number of casualties in the capital of Bujumbura. More than 100,000 Burundians have fled across the country’s borders into neighbouring Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania.
The Rwandan Red Cross reports that 26,756 Burundians have crossed its border over the past three weeks, while UNHCR reports at least 76,520 Burundians have fled to Tanzania.
In Tanzania, the men, women and children, who fled their homes only with what they could carry, are also now facing a cholera outbreak. According to health officials, 33 people have died so far. The outbreak is feared to be worsening with more than 2,000 suspected cases now reported, increasing at the rate of 300 to 400 new cases per day, particularly in Kagunga and nearby areas. At least 15 suspected cases have been reported on the Burundi side of the border. Many cases of acute watery diarrhoea have also been reported.
“Over half of the refugees from Burundi who seek refuge in Tanzania are children who are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases like cholera. Many of the families arriving are female-led which makes them even more vulnerable to violence and insecurity,” said Finn Jarle Rode, IFRC regional representative, East Africa. “There are urgent needs in water and sanitation, health, first aid and shelter.”
IFRC is supporting National Red Cross Societies in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania in responding to the urgent and rising humanitarian needs, especially those of woman and children who are the most affected in the current crisis, and to ensure close collaboration and coordination between the three National Societies.
On 20 May, IFRC launched an emergency appeal for 1 million Swiss francs to support the Tanzanian Red Cross Society in delivering assistance to 20,000 Burundian refugees with a focus on emergency health, water, sanitation, hygiene promotion, emergency shelter, and relief. Since the beginning of the crisis, staff and volunteers of the Tanzania Red Cross Society have been on the frontline of the response, providing people in need with immediate humanitarian assistance. A Field Assessment Coordination Team (FACT) has also been deployed to further evaluate the needs of the refugees and update the Red Cross response plan accordingly.
In Burundi, the Red Cross deployed three first aid mobile response teams in Bujumbura. They are offering onsite first aid treatment, evacuation of the injured to hospitals, and referrals of pregnant women caught up in the violence. Burundi Red Cross is monitoring the situation closely in all provinces and has pre-positioned stocks to be able to adapt its response to the fast changing context.
In Rwanda, the National Society has been supporting refugees at different entry points, in two transit camps and in one permanent camp with registration, first aid, psychosocial support, distribution of non-food items and helping separated family members regain contact with their loved ones.
“The Red Cross is on the front lines of this response, and currently, a lot remains unknown,” said Jarle Rode. “As the needs of those affected become clearer through our on-going assessments, we will undoubtedly have to seek significant additional resources to ensure affected people and families in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania receive the humanitarian support they deserve.”
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org/africa. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.