By Millicent Zighe
More than 100,000 Burundians have been internally displaced a new study shows.
A further 400,000 people have fled Burundi, most into neighbouring Tanzania, following violent unrest that accompanied 2015 elections, which saw Pierre Nkurunziza return to power for a controversial third presidential term.
Conflict has made people flee their homes to internally displaced persons camps whose conditions have been described as appalling. A report by The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) programme has indicated that women and girls have been subjected to gender-based violence in the camps. Most cases of this go unreported due to fears of stigma and this prevents adequate response to the crisis. This condition is further exacerbated by lack of psychosocial care or social integration services to the victims. Nonetheless, victims can still access legal assistance in some provinces.
The situation has become worse with children now bearing the brunt of the ongoing low-grade conflict in communes. Lack of educational infrastructure has also greatly hampered educational progress in many IDP camps. The distance from camps to schools has been a major concern forcing children in Bugabira commune to quit school altogether. This sad state of affairs has been replicated in Kirundo, Rutana and Muyinga province where IOM has reported that more than 50% of displaced children do not attend school.
Malaria is still a major health threat owing to the fact that 69% of displaced households have no means of paying for healthcare. Those lucky enough to access health centers have to walk for hours since the facilities are located miles away. Worse still, buying the prescribed dosage is a problem as a large number of IDP’s do not have access to pharmacies. In Provinces of Ngozi, Kayanza and Bururi for example, 70% are affected by lack of medical facilities.
Another issue is market prices in camps, which are said to be way too high for IDP’s to buy food and other social amenities. This brought about by the fact that many of them have no access to income generating activities. In some camps people have access to only one meal.
However, non-governmental organizations have stepped in to distribute porridge, peanut butter and other supplementary food mostly to children, pregnant women and other vulnerable persons.
Unavailability of latrines and other necessary ablution facilities by displaced households has made sanitary conditions dire, posing a major health risk to IDP’s. The IDP’s have to walk miles to access water sources, bearing in mind the looming security threats they face. Furthermore, complaints have been raised in Provinces of Bururi, Cankuzo and Ruyigi about the quality of water as the IDP’s end up contracting diseases after taking it. A staggering 81% of collines also reported their inadequate hand washing systems with soaps for displaced households. The huge population in camps creates a strain to the available sanitary facilities necessitating an urgent need for a viable sustainable solution. In spite of this, the situation in Bujumbura Mairie is better as a large percentage of IDP’s have water supply systems near their camps.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) is a comprehensive system that analyzes and disseminates information about the movements and needs of IDP’s in Burundi. Volunteers from the Burundian Red Cross (BRC) consult with key informants which include community leaders, local government authorities and religious leaders to identify displacement trends and needs of the communities.
With election set to take place next year many Burundians feel that the cycle of violence may increase.