Crackdown on Protesters in Burundi; Burundian Refugees Hit by Cholera Epidemic
By admin May 29, 2015

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After the crackdown on protesters killing at least 20 people, East African leaders have planned a meeting to discuss the political crisis in Burundi.  The protests originated last month due to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office, which critics believe to be unconstitutional. Peace talks were boycotted by the president’s opponents due to the death of their leader Zedi Feruzi, who was shot by unknown gunmen.  Two people were killed in a grenade attack in the capital Bujumbura. More than 100,000 people have fled violence, pouring into Tanzania, where now 3,000 Burundian refugees have been contaminated in a cholera epidemic. 31 lives have been claimed by the violence so far.  The UNHCR fears that the number of refugees could double in the next six months due to the political crisis. The current rate of arrivals is about 100 refugees a day.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, 50,000 refugees are stranded in Kagunga, a remote Tanzanian fishing village near lake Tanganyika.  UNHCR stated that their priority is to get “better access to safe water and promote hygiene,” to the already complicated situation of refugees seeking refuge.  The source of the epidemic is unknown, but it is thought to be carried across the border, since cases were reported in the southern Burundian town of Makamba.  The UNHCR, on the other hand, believes the epidemic originated at the lake due to overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions.  The World Health Organization believes the lake to be contaminated, yet people still use it as a source of water for consumption even though the UNHCR and the Tanzanian authorities are stating they were providing 8 liters of drinking water per person.  The government has also claimed to be providing more latrines, since there are currently only 94, 24 of which are filled.  The International Rescue Committee and Doctors Without Borders have set up treatment centers for cholera and severe diarrhea treatment.

Many refugees have been transferred to Nyagurusu, near the town of Kasulu. Two Tanzanians have already died, therefore authorities are worried about the implications on the local community if the epidemic is not restrained.  Christopher Kamugusha, program officer for the World Health Organization in Tanzania, believes the situation can be managed with enough medication and “swift action.”

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