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Meeting Burundi refugees

Child friendly spaces

As part of Plan International Tanzania’s focus on vulnerable children, they have established several Child Friendly Spaces where children can go and play football or musical instruments or take after school classes.

They also hold group and individual counselling sessions for traumatised children.

15 to 25 year olds can enroll on courses to develop their skills, like sewing

Within three days most refugees are provided with a tent, food, basic ‘non-food items’ like buckets, plates and cutlery, and a small piece of land where they can grow vegetables (though they will remain largely reliant on food handouts from the World Food Programme).

A range of UN and INGOs provide camp services. The Danish Refugee Council is in charge of camp management, Oxfam the water supply. As part of Plan International Tanzania’s focus on vulnerable children, they have established several Child Friendly Spaces (CFS’s) where children can go and play football or musical instruments or do after school classes. They also hold group and individual counselling sessions for traumatised children. And, along with Community Child Protection Committees, who act as a focal point, they monitor and report child protection issues and create awareness about children welfare in the camp.

Plan International has also just opened up a youth centre, recognising there is little to do in the camps for 15 to 25 year-olds. The centre is a mix of fun – a volleyball court is the first thing inside the gate and music blares out – and skills courses. One room is full of sewing machines, another teaches bakery. This will allow young people to set up small businesses in the camp and have a profession when they are able to return to Burundi.  Two apprenticeship bakers lead us to a tent containing a bread oven, ingredients and a tray full of finished loaves.

We also visit Plan International’s camp office where we meet about a dozen fostered children and their foster parents. Strikingly, the parents don’t see what they are doing as remarkable at all,  while the children all have aspirations to be doctors, teachers or lawyers. “I know my rights have been abused…..so I want to learn law so I can fight back,” says one of them.

It is fabulous to see the support Plan International, other INGOs and UN organisations are providing.

But this remains a forgotten crisis. These organisations have a fraction of what they need to provide even basic needs. 420 classrooms are required; only 28 exist. There is one secondary school for an 80,000 population. It has no books, no windows, no doors. WFP got close to reducing food rations (already basic maize and beans) by 40% recently. There are huge gaps in funding for child protection.

We must do more to ensure this isn’t a forgotten crisis.

And because there is no political solution in sight, the violence across the border is expected to continue, leading to a predicted additional 130,000 refugee arrivals in Tanzania in 2017.

 

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