Burundian refugee exodus strains Rwanda’s largest camp capacity

KIGALI – Rwanda has serious concerns as Burundian refugees continue to arrive while the country’s largest refugee camp has surpassed its capacity of 50,000 residents.

Mahama camp located in Kirehe district, Eastern Province is now sheltering more than 53,000 refugees.

It was established to accommodate Burundian refugees who massively fled to Rwanda when political crisis related to presidential elections erupted into violence in Burundi in 2015.

Speaking to Xinhua on Wednesday, Seraphine Mukantabana, Rwanda’s minister of disaster management and refugees affairs, said that the country’s largest refugee camp is already overcrowded with Burundian refugees, creating serious concerns as more refugees continue to arrive.

“The camp has surpassed its accommodation capacity, but we can’t chase the refugees, or tell them go back to their country since they are fleeing violence. We are worried that even as the refugee population grows, meeting basic needs will be a challenge,” she added.

“We are looking into the matter and soon we will find a solution to overcrowding of refugee camps in our country.”

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since April 2015, more than 384,000 Burundian refugees have fled to Tanzania (222,271), Rwanda (84,866), Uganda (about 44,000) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (32,650) and its projections indicate that numbers will cross half-a-million by the end of the year.

With the number of arrivals at more than 160 a week in January, many live under plastic sheeting in overcrowded area, waiting for a move to a family shelter.

Last month, Burundian refugees at Mahama camp acquired new health facility that is expected to improve general health services for the refugees.

The health facility, equipped with a maternity room/labor ward, medical isolation centre and a laboratory, was constructed through collaboration of different international organizations and the government of Rwanda.

UNHCR says that the number of people fleeing Burundi, where peace talks have stalled, has been rising in the first weeks of the year, adding to the pressure for land in host countries. The majority are women, children and individuals with specific needs.

The UN body is calling on host governments to urgently provide more land to ensure shelter and avert a drastic deterioration in conditions.

The small central African country is a home to 160,000 refugees mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi with a little number of refugees with other nationalities.

Source: Angola Press News Agency