Burundians are heading to the polls in 2020. The last presidential elections in 2015 were contested and resulted in political unrest and violent clashes. Many thousands fled the country. Around 332,000 Burundians refugees are still in neighbouring countries. Since its independence in 1962, Burundi faced periods of instability and conflict. The EU continues to provide support to Burundian refugees in their host countries and to Burundian returnees who voluntarily go back home.
Burundian refugees are mainly hosted in Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Uganda. They rely entirely on international assistance to cover their basic needs, such as food, health, water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, and education.
Most refugees live in camps where capacities and resources have been stretched to the limit. The main needs remain finding a permanent shelter at overcrowded host camps, meeting refugees’ food needs, ensuring sufficient health facilities that can provide basic healthcare, creating a safe learning environment for children and protecting vulnerable people in the refugee community.
Tanzania started a voluntary return plan for Burundian refugees in September 2017. Since then, around 84,000 Burundians returned to their home country. Returnees need support to reintegrate in their new or original communities. They often face challenges as returnee farmers may have lost their lands in the meantime.
The coronavirus pandemic has reached Burundi with over 40 cases officially confirmed as of 18 May 2020.
Since the 2015 outbreak of violence in Burundi, it has become more difficult to get the resources required to cover the refugees’ needs. The regional Burundi refugee response plan is among the lowest funded globally.
The European Union continues to monitor the humanitarian situation in Burundi and provided nearly €6 million in humanitarian funding in 2019 to assist Burundian refugees in neighbouring countries.
Refugees receive life-saving food assistance through in-kind and cash-based assistance. The latter allows refugees to acquire essential items they consider a priority for their household. Additional nutritional support is given to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, children under 5 years of age, chronically ill people and hospital patients.
EU humanitarian support enables the registration of Burundian refugees in camps and settlements in the region, which is often a precondition to receive assistance both for refugees and returnees. EU funds also go towards meeting refugees’ protection needs, including raising awareness on the coronavirus pandemic. Refugees are informed about the symptoms, mode of transmission and how to prevent the spread of the virus.
The EU supports protection assistance given to particularly vulnerable groups. These may include children, women, single parents, survivors of sexual violence, the elderly and people with a disability who are at risk of being marginalised and unable to access help services. In addition to supporting victims, protection actions also include measures to reduce the risks of violence and abuse at refugee camps.
Having spent years outside their home communities, rebuilding their life back in Burundi is a challenge for refugee returnees and for the receiving communities. EU funding supports returnees with the promotion of community dialogue to identify humanitarian needs and provide solutions together with the receiving communities. In addition, returnees are helped to benefit from basic services, such as by acquiring birth certificates that, in turn, open access to services in their home country.
The EU is also supporting epidemics preparedness in the country, including for Ebola in the areas close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Burundi is prone to natural disasters such as floods and landslides. The EU supports disaster preparedness in the country by enhancing the response capacity of first-line actors: the Burundian Red Cross and the communities themselves.