Burundi refugee crisis: Stranded in a village

Neighbouring countries are bracing for a bigger influx of refugees as political unrest continues unabated in Burundi.

| | Politics, Refugees, Africa, Burundi, Tanzania

Kigoma, Tanzania - They continue to come. Carrying little more than the clothes on their backs, a kitchen accessory or two, more than 100,000 Burundian refugees continue to make their way into Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The political unrest at home shows no signs of abating, and the cries of a new conflict have rung loud. The UNHCR declared on Friday that there could be an exodus of possibly another 100,000 over the next six months as fear grips parts of the East African nation.

And it hasn't been easy. Some 70,000 refugees have entered Tanzania through a variety of entry points across the long border these two countries share. But the vast majority, more than 50,000 people, have ended up in the village of Kagunga, an island village shaped as a peninsula on Lake Tanganyika. Reaching the refugees from Tanzania is only possible by boat. It is on these shores that the threat of disease, especially cholera, is at its most extreme. Thousands remain huddled on the shoreline, many forced to sleep, eat and defecate in the open, as they wait for the UNHCR to transport them to Kigoma and then to the Nyarugusu refugee camp. Aid agencies are working hard to make the transfer smoother but with just two boats available, it will be days, if not weeks before they make it to safety.

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