Introduction and Background
In March 2015, socio-political tensions erupted in Burundi ahead of the just concluded general elections that were considered a critical milestone for the long-term peace and stability of the country. Protests between supporters of the opposing political parties became increasingly violent, mostly in the capital Bujumbura, resulting, at the beginning of April, in a steady outflow of Burundians, firstly into the Republic of Rwanda (Rwanda) and then increasingly in to the United Republic of Tanzania (Tanzania) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).1 Uganda has also received its own fair share of Burundian refugees travelling through border crossing points of Mirama Hills and Murongo to the transit centres in Oruchinga and Nakivale. As at 20th July 2015, there is a total of 10,999 new Burundian arrivals in Uganda, amongst which are 4,797 children, constituting 43.6% of the total population.
Once displaced, children are more likely to experience protection concerns, as family and other social support networks may be weakened, and their education may be disrupted. Children, especially without their parents or caregivers, are at higher risk of abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence. In addition, children who are deprived of their normal routines during displacement are under high stress, and require a substantial level of support. Family tracing and reunification activities would need to be strengthened, as well as cross-border monitoring mechanisms which will also require an urgent operationalization.
Overcrowding of shelters, traditional gender attitudes as well as separation of family members contributes to a greater risk of SGBV. Furthermore, the lack of learning and play spaces for children and other protection risks contribute to greater psychological distress of children.
A majority of the Burundian refugees and asylum seekers coming to Uganda are being placed in Orunchinga and Nakivale refugee settlements in the South West of Uganda, near the borders with Tanzania and with Rwanda. While the OPM, UNHCR and its partners have endeavoured to address the protection needs of the refugees in these settlements, there still remain major gaps, especially with the child protection interventions. The new influx of refugees and asylum seekers as a result of the Burundian situation, and the fact that children form more than half of the current influx will only widen this gap and further stretch thin the available resources. Preliminary assessments conducted in these settlements at the start of the influx highlighted gaps. However, in order to ensure an adequate and comprehensive response to the Burundian refugee situation in the South-western settlements, there is a need for further information and evidence.
The Child Protection Sub Working Group on Refugee Children, led by UNHCR and UNICEF, and comprised of child protection actors working with refugee children, therefore initiated an Inter-Agency Joint Assessment to provide a snapshot of the urgent protection needs of children. On the basis of their initial understanding of the situation, the assessment team agreed to focus on the following key thematic areas: separation from caregivers, psychosocial wellbeing, access to basic services and information, child labour, sexual violence and education. Under each of these thematic areas, the assessment team identified key information points that the assessment should cover, or What-We-Need-to-Know.