In 2015, President Nkurunziza’s controversial reelection plunged the country yet again into crisis, prompting a mass exodus. The ensuing political and economic crisis continues to date, with ongoing reports about a climate of persecution and violence. Furthermore, widespread poverty, food insecurity and a malaria epidemic is making daily life difficult. More than 600 000 Burundians have been uprooted from their homes, inside and outside of the country, and one-fourth of the population faces severe food insecurity.
The majority of Burundian refugees – some 240 000 - remain in Tanzania where they are hosted in three camps along the border. They rely on international aid to meet their basic needs. In January 2017, Tanzania lifted the ‘prima facie’ refugee recognition for Burundians, no longer automatically giving them refugee status. In September 2017, a voluntary repatriation programme was launched. In the space of two months, 6988 refugees in Tanzania were assisted to voluntarily return to Burundi where prospects are nevertheless dim.
The worsening food situation results from the economic decline and disruption of markets and trade. In the past year, Burundi’s agricultural production fell by 25% resulting in food price increases of up to 50%. Child malnutrition is on the increase in many parts of the country. A malaria epidemic has been declared. A staggering 5.8 million malaria cases and 2617 deaths have been recorded in the first eight months of 2017. Multiple small outbreaks of cholera have so far been contained but need to be closely monitored.
Many of the 190 000 internally displaced people in Burundi are reluctant to return home, citing food shortages, a lack of basic services and insecurity.
The European Commission is closely monitoring the Burundi crisis and has released €45.5 million in humanitarian funding since the beginning of the crisis. These funds are mainly used by humanitarian partners to assist the Burundian refugees in the region. Some funds are also allocated to provide water and sanitation to displaced and violence-affected communities in Burundi and provide protection to vulnerable populations.
In the refugee camps and settlements in Tanzania, Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda, registration, essential services and food assistance are being provided with EU humanitarian support. In Tanzania, Burundian refugees are hosted in Mtendeli, Nduta and Nyarugusu camps which have become very congested. The population in the latter two has grown to three times the foreseen capacity.
Aid in the Tanzania camps is channeled towards the construction of improved transitional shelters and permanent classrooms; child-protection programmes; and the provision of safe water and sanitation. Assistance and protection are also provided to particularly vulnerable groups, such as those with special needs such as the elderly, single parents, survivors of sexual violence, and people with a disability, chronic medical condition or albinism.
The upgrading of water and sanitation facilities and health care services has been important to prevent and address disease outbreaks such as cholera. Where possible and pertinent, food assistance is provided in the form of cash transfers.
The Commission's operational partners have adopted measures aimed at reducing the risks of violence and abuse in the refugee camps while, at the same time, providing support and protection to victims of violence.