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Masses of Burundi refugees show up in Tanzania

20 May 2015, 11:24

Kampala - Cholera and severe diarrhoea have broken out among tens of thousands of refugees from Burundi who are jammed into a village in Tanzania on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, with the Burundians overwhelming the health infrastructure and sanitation facilities, aid agencies said on Tuesday.

Between 500 and 2 000 people are arriving daily in the tiny fishing village of Kagunga, the World Health Organisation said.

The refugees have abandoned their country because of fears of political violence in the run-up to June elections, in which their president is seeking a third term. His candidacy has triggered demonstrations for three weeks in Burundi's capital and amid the chaos, some military officer launched a coup last week, which failed within two days.

Kagunga's original population of 11 382 has increased to over 90 000 since April, WHO said in a statement. There is not enough safe water for drinking.

With Kagunga surrounded by mountains, the refugees must wait to board a 100-year-old ship and make the three-hour trip to the port of Kigoma, the International Rescue Committee said.

Overcrowded and unsanitary conditions

The ship is transporting 600 passengers twice daily, leaving those who remain behind in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, the aid group said.

The IRC said it is providing medical care in Kagunga, on the boat and at a transit camp in Kigoma. After making it to Kigoma, around 16 000 refugees have moved on to Nyarugusu refugee camp, a journey of up to four hours by road.

Cases of acute diarrhoea and cholera have been confirmed, according to WHO.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees office reported on Sunday that at least seven Burundian refugees had died of severe diarrhoea.

Demonstrators in Bujumbura, Burundi's capital, say they will continue to protest until President Pierre Nkurunziza steps down at the end of his second term.

Burundi's Constitution states a president can be popularly elected to a five-year terms, renewable once. Nkurunziza maintains he can run for a third term because parliament elected him for his first one. Opponents say a third term violates the Constitution and peace accords that ended a civil war.

- AP


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