Refugees: Burundians settled in the camps modestly marked the end of year celebrations

Refugees: Burundians settled in the camps modestly marked the end of year celebrations

From Nduta to Kakuma via Nyarugusu, Mahama, Nakivale or even Dzaleka, Mulongwe, Lusenda or Meheba, Burundian refugees marked the end of year celebrations in modesty. In addition to the increase in food prices, they no longer receive food aid in time for some, the ration having been significantly reduced for others. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

In previous years, the time should be for the distribution of various assistance in the camps, between Christmas and New Year, which was not the case in 2022.

Nyarugusu (Tanzania) : increase in food prices

“In any case, during Christmas week, we should see multicolored clothes in zone 8, women with bags of rice in the streets of zone 3 or even people flocking to the bistro in the former central market. Today, we consider it as a set of memories”, explains Marc, a Burundian refugee from Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania.

Worse still, prices have soared, preventing people from ‘eating meat’.

“A kg of meat costs 8,000 Tanzania shillings (3.4 USD), the price of rice, flour or even beans has doubled, we haven’t even eaten a piece of meat”, say Burundian refugees

“Imagine a Christmas without salt or cooking oil because the UNHCR has suspended the distribution of these ingredients, so it is a bitter or tasteless Christmas”, add other refugees.

Nduta (Tanzania) : the UNHCR partly remembered women

To celebrate Christmas and the New Year to women in the Nduta camp in Tanzania, the UNHCR distributed the feminine hygiene kit.

The kit is distributed to girls and women aged 9 to 50. These are feminine sanitary napkins, soaps and underwear.

“Each girl/woman gets two pairs. The UNHCR explains that it is a way to end and start the year well for women. We are proud of it because, in any case, this material helps us very much because we don’t have money to buy more”, explain women in the Nduta camp.

Jealousy or need? The men also want the UNHCR to give them clothes.

“Even a pair of pants and a shirt is enough for each of us because we don’t have money to buy them. And then, look at us, we are badly dressed, torn clothes to say that we also need it”, emphasize men from the said camp.

Mahama (Rwanda) : no joy

In Mahama Camp, the rise in prices has made things worse for refugees who are already living in a terrible situation following the social categorization of refugees.

“Most people here are put in Group III, and there they get nothing, without mentioning the ‘unclassified’. This happens at a time when others are put into groups I and II. The second group receives aid of 3500 Rwanda francs (3.25 USD) per person per month; members of the first group receive double for the same period. This categorization is a source of misfortune here”, lament refugees, especially Burundians.

“Weird” Christmas and New Year

“For the record, I haven’t seen even a single drunk person here on Christmas Day. No movement of people towards the center of Kabeza where there are bistros. In past years, people even beat drums during the end-of-year celebrations, which was not the case this year”, say refugees.

Dzaleka (Malawi) : curfew

Since insecurity was reported in Dzaleka camp after the grenade throwing in mid-December, the camp has been experiencing a worrying curfew.

“At 6 p.m., the camp is closed, even on these holidays! Even fireworks in children’s games are prohibited. We didn’t even have time to share a drink with friends, at least for those who could”, explain some Burundians.

Kakuma (Kenya) : bikers growl

For those who commute on motorcycles who thought they would earn more during the festive season, eyes were glued to the air.

“Several police checks for inspection of motorcycle documents, seized or confiscated motorcycles, banditry… these are the misfortunes that we denounce”, say motorcycle taxi riders.

In this camp, the agricultural harvests which help refugees a lot in the last months of the year have not been good because of the drought.

Nakivale (Uganda) : holidays postponed

The end-of-year celebrations have been special because they come at a time when refugees in Nakivale are in untold misery, refugees say.

“We have postponed these parties. We don’t even remember the dates of Christmas and New Year because of the poverty that ruins us. Reason why nothing has changed here. No enthusiasm even for churches to pray or hold vigils”, say Burundian refugees.

One of the religious leaders tries the words of a wise man in Nakivale : “Christmas is not normally a feast of drunkenness or an opportunity to squander family belongings, but rather a reminder of God’s love for His people. It’s a time to share the little you have and rejoice in life.

Meheba (Zambia) : juvenile delinquency

With hunger raging in households, heads of families have decided that only one substantial meal is enough, that of the evening. “Even the little ones know that in the morning, we either have the porridge or a share of the meal from the previous evening reheated, if we ever had a surplus. At noon, we have nothing”, says a household chief.

Young people, especially girls, who cannot bear this situation engage in debauchery. “They trade in sex to have enough to eat or feed the family, others, especially young people, take drugs to forget this situation. It’s really catastrophic here, which is why we have a lot of unwanted pregnancies. This is the situation in which the end of year celebrations find us”, describe Burundian refugees.

In Tanzania, as in Rwanda or Uganda, Burundian refugees say that most of them prefer to return, not out of conviction, but rather out of fear of dying in exile. For others, “poverty is better than insecurity”.

For the past two months, Burundian authorities have been increasing visits to camps in Tanzania and Rwanda to call for voluntary repatriation. They revealed that they intend to repatriate more than 70,000 Burundians in 2023.

Mulongwe and Lusenda (DRC) : prices have increased

In the Burundian refugee camps of Mulongwe and Lusenda in the eastern DRC province of South Kivu, Burundian refugees say food prices have risen significantly over the holiday season.

“A kg of rice that used to be bought at 1,500 Congolese francs now costs 2,500 francs. A kg of maize flour that was sold at 1,000 francs is now set at 2,000”, say refugees.

“Imagine! A goat that used to cost 50 dollars is currently bought at 120 dollars”, regret other refugees who confided in SOS Médias Burundi.

But recently, more than three thousand vulnerable refugees settled in this part of the Congo have received aid of one hundred dollars each, the UNHCR wanting to alleviate their suffering.

According to UNHCR data, more than 258,000 Burundian refugees were in exile as of November 30, 2022. The majority are in four countries : Tanzania with more than 126,000, Rwanda with more than 48,000, DRC with more 43,000 and Uganda, which is home to more than 40,000 Burundians. Kenya, Zambia and Malawi have become home to more than 33,000 Burundian refugees.

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