Burundi: WHO raises red flag over cholera outbreak in Tanzania

Burundian children who fled to Rwanda with no parents being registered at Mahama Camp. (Faustin Niyigena)
Burundian children who fled to Rwanda with no parents being registered at Mahama Camp. (Faustin Niyigena)

A severe humanitarian crisis is emerging in Tanzania as thousands of refugees from Burundi continue to seek asylum in neighbouring countries, due to escalating political tensions, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

According to the organisation, the situation is especially worrisome in Kagunga village in Tanzania where the original population of 11,382 has surged to over 90,000 since the crisis began in April 2015.

Mass population displacements have peaked in the last few days with 500 to 2,000 arrivals per day overwhelming the current health system infrastructure.

Cholera scare

“On 16 May 2015, two samples from the Nyarugusu camp tested positive for cholera and the number of acute diarrhoea diseases cases have rapidly climbed to over 1,000 cases. Furthermore, 13 samples have on 17 May 2015 tested positive for cholera,” reads a statement by WHO.

Identified vulnerable groups that are at risk include pregnant women, children, elderly and special groups needing special attentions including people living with HIV/AIDS, abandoned children, the disabled and people with other chronic illnesses,reports the Newtimes Rwanda.

The Nyarugusu refugee camp has also reached the threshold of maximum number of persons, and the asylum seekers are being housed in local schools awaiting temporary tents. A temporary holding area has also been identified at the Lake Tanganyika Stadium in Kigoma town, which needs a lot of inputs to make it habitable.

“There is a need to further strengthen coordination mechanisms to scale-up the provision of health care services and basic shelter, food and protection services to the high risk populations. Tanzania’s MOHSW has requested support in terms of human as well as financial resources to handle this emerging humanitarian crisis,” it reads.

Besides Tanzania, Rwanda has so far received close to 30,000 Burundian refugees since the crisis started, following the announcement by the Burundian ruling party, CNDD/FDD, to endorse President Nkurunziza as a presidential contender in the polls slated for next month.

Nkurunziza, whom Burundians contend is not allowed to stand as per the country’s constitution, has said he would stand, and nationals started fleeing by the thousands after continued cases of intimidation by a paramilitary youth group aligned to the ruling party, with death threats to those that will not vote for President Nkurunziza.

In total, over 100,000 Burundians have so far fled the country to Rwanda, Tanzanian and the DRC.

The Burundians in Rwanda have been placed in Mahama Refugee Camp in Kirehe District.

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