Burundi refugee crisis: stops on the journey of refugees fleeing to Tanzania

Burundian refugees boarding a bus to Lake Tanganyika Stadium
Burundian refugees boarding a bus to Lake Tanganyika Stadium before being moved to the now overflowing Nyarugusu camp. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Tens of thousands of refugees, mostly women and children, have been arriving in Tanzania, pouring over the border from Burundi. Over 70,000 have already arrived at Kagunga beach, on the border between Burundi and Tanzania, from where they are being bussed to Nyarugusu camp. We are working to provide clean water, shelter and food, but the huge influx of people is over-stretching our capacity to respond, as emergency aid workers and the government of Tanzania struggle to meet these urgent demands. Nyarugusu camp has already overflowed into schools and churches, providing additional temporary shelter until more appropriate accommodation can be built for the ever growing number of refugees.

Many arrive on Kakunga Beach

Refugees arrive on the rugged beach shore of Kakunga Beach, Lake Tanganyika, on the Burundi and Tanzania border. Many spend up to three weeks here in exposed, cramped conditions.

A Burundian refugee is treated in a makeshift clinic at Kakunga Beach, on the border between Burundi and Tanzania on Lake Tanganyika. Photo: James Akena/Oxfam

Photo: James Akena/Oxfam

From beach to boat

From Kakunga Beach, refugees are transported by boat to Kigoma Port, in Tanzania. Refugees are transferred by smaller boats to the ferry which carries 600 people. A second ship can carry up to 300 people but cannot operate at night.

Ferries wait to transfer Burundian refugees to Kigoma. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Registration and screening

From Kigoma port, refugees must take a bus to Lake Tanganyika Stadium for registration. Safety screenings are conducted as they disembark at Kigoma port.

Safety Screening at Kigoma port, Tanzania,  for Burundian refugee families.  Photo: Oxfam/Bill Marwa

Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Fleeing Burundian families make the next step of their journey, on their way to Lake Tanganyika Stadium where they will get registered.

Families disembark from boat from Kagunga at Kigoma Port Authority to take buses to Lake Tanganyika Stadium for registration. Photo: Oxfam/Aimee Brown

Photo: Aimee Brown/Oxfam

The tired, hungry and frightened refugees are given food vouchers which they can exchange for meals.

Burundi refugees exchanging food vouchers for meals; after arriving from Kagunga. Photo: Oxfam/Aimee Brown

Photo: Aimee Brown/Oxfam

Schools and churches pressed into service

With Nyarugusu camp filled to overflowing schools and churches have been pressed into service as temporary shelter; to deal with the sheer volume of refugees.

Lycée de la paix girls secondary school is one of the many schools at Nyarugusu camp that has temporarily been turned into a refugee base to accommodate the rising numbers of refugees fleeing from Burundi.

Lycée de la paix girls secondary school is one of the many schools at Nyarugusu camp that has temporarily been turned to a refugee base to accommodate the rising numbers of refugees fleeing from Burundi. Photo: O

Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Cases of cholera confirmed

With cases of cholera already confirmed in both Kagunga and Nyargusu, clean water, medical care and proper sanitation are urgently needed. Oxfam is working with local partners TWESA to provide clean water, more toilets, and hygiene education. 

Oxfam staff loads water, health, and sanitation (WASH) equipment onto a lorry in preparation for the arrival of Burundian refugees in Kigoma. 

Oxfam loads water, health, and sanitation (WASH) equipment onto a lorry in preparation for the arrival of Burundian refugees in Kigoma. Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Our teams are working to provide clean water and toilets to refugees in emergency camps in Tanzania, including Nyarugusu. 

We have started transporting latrine construction materials from Kigoma to Kagunga beach in efforts to avert diseases like Cholera.

We have started transporting latrine construction materials from Kigoma to Kagunga beach in efforts to avert diseases like Cholera.  Photo: Oxfam/Bill Marwa

Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

Hygiene education helps prevent disease

In addition to clean water we are providing hygiene education; essential to disease prevention.

Oxfam teams are arriving in Nyarugusu camp to provide material and technical support to deliver life-saving clean water, construct latrines, as well as to educate the refugee population about the crucial importance of good hygiene.

Our teams are arriving in Nyarugusu camp to provide material and technical support to deliver clean water, construct latrines, and to educate the refugee population about the crucial importance of good hygiene in preventing disease. Photo:Oxfam/Bill Marwa

Photo: Bill Marwa/Oxfam

We are working hard with the Government of Tanzania and other aid agencies to meet basic needs, but more funds are urgently needed in order to purchase essential materials such as tents, water pipes, water storage tanks and medical supplies.