Over 110,000 Burundians have fled their country amid protests and an attempted coup d'état. Now a cholera outbreak has made the journey all the more dangerous.
By Jessica Hatcher in Kagunga
Of the thousands who have fled in recent weeks amid protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s plan to run for a third term and a related attempted coup, more than half have arrived in neighbouring Tanzania.
Many of the refugees have made the same hasty journey before. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled their homeland during the country's 12-year civil war, only to return after the 2005 peace agreement. One woman waiting at Kagunga to catch a boat to Kigoma in Tanzania said she plied this exact route in 1993 and along with other refugees spoke warmly of their earlier years there:
Some 50,000 people are now crowded into Kagunga, a Tanzanian village on an island wedged between mountains on one side and Lake Tanganyika on the other. With Kagunga surrounded by mountains, the refugees must wait to board a ship and make the three-hour trip to the port of Kigoma. According to the International Rescue Committee said, the ship is transporting 600 passengers twice daily, leaving those who remain behind in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
The exodus has prompted a major public health crisis. A cholera outbreak on Kagunga has so far claimed 27 lives.
Medical facilities at the camp have been overwhelmed by the number of sick people. According to Oxfam, approximately 22,000 refugees have been transported from Kagunga to Nyarugusu camp, where they are being temporarily housed in schools and churches, as aid agencies source supplies needed to build appropriate shelter. Clean water, medical care and proper sanitation are urgently needed.
Tumultuous events in Burundi have prompted several huge waves of refugees:
Basigivyahbo has fled Burundi four times in the past, once to Democratic Republic of Congo and three times to Tanzania. He opposes Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term and has little incentive to stay: poor governance at the top of the pyramid, and not enough to eat further down. Even as a citizen of Burundi, his life entails scraping by on what he can.