Two families struggling to survive as refugees in Tanzania

Publicado: 23 junio 2015 11:00 CET

By Caroline Haga, Finnish Red Cross

“I was born on a refugee camp here in Tanzania in 1984. This is already my third time fleeing my home country,” Ndayisimiye Mathias tells us wearily. He is one of the thousands of Burundi refugees waiting to be assigned their own tents at the Nyarugusu refugee camp.

Mathias’ story is similar to that of many others among the crowded mass tents that serve as the reception centres. This is the first stop for refugees arriving at the Nyarugusu refugee camp in northwestern Tanzania. Here they are forced to wait, sometimes for several weeks, before they get their own family tent in the actual tent village that has been quickly set up on the outskirts.

So far, the Mathias family of six has only had to wait for four days. But they have no idea of how long it will be in the end. Until then, their home is a jam-packed, hot and noisy tent that has been set up on the red sandy ground. There is no personal space, no basis necessities, and limited sanitation facilities.

“We even have to sleep separately,” the father of the family says. “I am in one tent, my wife Nshimirimana Joyce and our youngest son Manirakiza Wyngel, nine months, in another. Our older son of three years, Ndayiseya Shalom, has to sleep by himself with the other children.”

But it is the lack of food that worries Ndayismiye Mathias the most. “Many people are starving and tired. Even when they go to the food distribution centres, there is none.”

Barely any hope left

The same worry also plagues Saaiki Theonest, 32, and his wife Nizigiyimana Sergiane, 28. The family, which has also spent four days at the camp, used to be farmers in Burundi. Now they say that they have no idea how to get food for their four children aged 12, 7, 4 and 1. They were too afraid to bring any belongings with them.

“We came here because of the situation in Burundi where people were searched for and sometimes killed. Our family walked the whole way and we couldn’t take anything with us to not draw attention to us,” the wife explains.

The family has almost given up. “I don’t see any future for my family,” Sergiane continues sadly. “We expected things to be better, maybe even to get land that we could cultivate. At the moment, we have nothing and there is nothing we can do. We cannot even go back to Burundi.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an emergency appeal of  1 million Swiss francs to support the Tanzania Red Cross Society as it responds to this unfolding crisis. The appeal aims to assist 20,000 Burundian refugees through the provision of emergency health care, shelter, water and sanitation, and non-food items including basics such as blankets and buckets.