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Burundian refugees wait anxiously for their journey to safety to be over

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Tanzania Red Cross
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By Caroline Haga, Finnish Red Cross

Senginuyava Fitness sits on the ground in the middle of the stadium clutching her youngest child, a six-month old girl who looks like a little princess in her colourful dress. She and her family have finally reached the second to last stop on their long journey to safety.

Fitness is one of the more than 100,000 refugees who have fled Burundi due to the ongoing violence in the country. While thousands of refugees have poured into Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania has, to date, witnessed the greatest influx. For Fitness, the journey to the town of Kigoma in Tanzania was a long one. “I don’t remember,” she says when asked how long she has been travelling. “I think I left a month ago from my home village Mukagongo in Burundi.”

She, her husband and their four children are now at the refugee registration centre set up at Kigoma’s football stadium. Here, all refugees are being registered and asked to wait for their transport to the Nyarugusu refugee camp.

Fitness hugs her little girl Nischimue Dier. “We arrived here at 5 o’clock last night. I have been told we would get to go to the refugee camp tomorrow,” she says hopefully. Until then they will be waiting in the heat for their names to be called, and the 150 kilometre journey by bus to their final destination to begin.

The Tanzania Red Cross Society is actively helping the refugees at all stages of their journey from the border to the refugee camp. At the registration centre, which host some 2,000 refugees at a time, Red Cross volunteers man a first aid team to ensure that everyone not feeling well receives treatment as quickly as possible.

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.

The Red Cross is also assisting refugees in Rwanda. Staff and volunteers are registering new arrivals at different entry points, in two transit camps and in one permanent camp. They are providing first aid, psychosocial support, non-food items, and helping separated family members contact their loved ones.

In Burundi, the Red Cross has deployed three first aid mobile response teams in the capital of Bujumbura, where teams offer first aid and evacuate the injured to hospitals.