Creating a durable solution for Burundian refugees in Tanzania

Davide Prata | April 20, 2016

Youth participate in a talent competition in Tanzania's Nduta Refugee Camp. Photo: Davide Prata / CWS

Youth participate in a talent competition in Tanzania’s Nduta Refugee Camp. Photo: Davide Prata / CWS

Today I am at the youth center hall of the Nduta Refugee Camp in western Tanzania. CWS and our ACT Alliance partner Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service contributed to renovate this community space in January. Since then, hundreds of youths have come here every day to participate in sport, theater, music and information sharing groups.

This is a special day. A youth competition has been organized and ten groups are showing off their singing, dancing and drumming skills.

While I am sitting here in this crowded room, listening to a powerful performance of traditional drums, I am thinking about the future of these young people. What does their the future hold?  To use United Nations terminology, what does a “durable solution” mean for them?

“Once refugee status has been determined and immediate protection needs are addressed refugee may need support to find a long-term, durable solution. UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, promotes three durable solutions for refugees as part of its core mandate: voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement to a third country.”

It has been ten months since the emergency began. Over 250,000 Burundian refugees have fled their country to neighboring Rwanda, Congo and Tanzania. More than 134,000 Burundians are currently living in three refugee camps in western Tanzania.  International agencies and UNHCR are in regrettable agreement that a short term solution for this crisis is unlikely: “Burundian refugees might stay in Tanzania for the next decade,” read a recent report from UNHCR.

Still, it is hard to communicate in words the energy and enthusiasm held by these youth. It is simply great! I am seeing among them future teachers, computer technicians, mechanics, plumbers and engineers: careers built from this amazing energy.

At CWS, we believe in building strong partnerships. In that spirit, we have worked with ACT Alliance partner TCRS for the last ten months to ensure that the most pressing needs of these youth are met. Every day we provide emergency support to displaced families in the form of access to water, community-based psychosocial support and the distribution of supplies like hygiene kits and jerry cans.

Now, we’re looking to their future and next steps. Vocational training, adult literacy and agriculture can boost refugees’ self-reliance. Through these long-term, sustainable programs, we are creating hope.

Davide Prata is CWS’s Emergency Coordinator in Tanzania.

CWS’s Emergency Response Program works with local partners to save lives and reduce suffering in communities affected by crisis. Our aim is to increase the resilience and capacity of communities to address the long term factors that undermine their ability to respond to disasters. Learn more about our work in Tanzania’s Nduta, Mtendeli and Nyarugusu refugee camps here, here, here and here.