REGIONAL SITUATION OVERVIEW
As of 31 December 2020, a total of 312,615 Burundian refugees were hosted in the four main asylum countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. The 2020 Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) included an appeal for US$ 298.4 million for 37 partners to meet the critical needs of Burundian refugees in these four countries.
The relative stabilization in Burundi since the 2015 crisis and the mostly peaceful political transition in May 2020 offer new perspectives for solutions to this now protracted refugee situation. Since July 2020, an increasing number of Burundian refugees expressed their intention to return home, and close to 40,000 Burundian refugees were assisted in their voluntary repatriation over the course of the year.
In 2020, Burundian refugees continued to face multiple protection risks, in particular gender-based violence (GBV) including survival sex and early marriages as a result of limited access to livelihoods, school closures, overcrowded shelters, lack of domestic energy supply and reduced humanitarian assistance. Refugee children (over 50% of the refugee population) were exposed to particular risks. The situation of unaccompanied and separated children was particularly concerning, as many suffered neglect and adolescents have increasingly resorted to negative coping mechanisms.
The fact that the RRRP remained severely underfunded with only 40 per cent of the resources required led to acute gaps, including food ration cuts, inadequate shelters, lack of medicines, deficient WASH infrastructure and insufficient livelihoods activities. The large majority of the refugee population remained dependent on humanitarian assistance. The COVID-19 pandemic further compounded the situation. RRP partners faced enormous challenges in stabilizing existing programmes and in meeting the minimum standards of service provision, let alone investing in long-term and more sustainable interventions.
Notably, severe underfunding compromised the quality of child protection and education, and the capacity to fully provide mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) and GBV prevention and response.
Notwithstanding these challenges, RRP partners promoted an inclusive protection and solutions approach by advocating for refugee integration into national systems, such as education, health, environment, livelihoods, child protection and birth registration. Despite the COVID-19 related challenges, the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda made progress in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees. Rwanda developed action plans for its nine Global Refugee Forum (GRF) pledges focusing on education, livelihoods, protection, environment, energy and health. In Uganda efforts continued to support refugee inclusion, resilience and self-reliance of refugees and host communities, and expand solutions. In 2020, refugees were integrated in Uganda’s National Development Plan (NDP) III (2020/21-2024/25). At sectoral level, costed comprehensive sector response plans were developed and are being implemented under the leadership of Government Ministries for education, health, water and environment and jobs and livelihoods. The revised Country Refugee Response Plan, launched in July 2020, and which includes sector strategies and budgets to address the humanitarian needs of Burundian refugees, also serves as a transition plan towards sustainable refugee response programming in Uganda. It makes a closer link to existing government plans for refugee and host communities, moving towards sustainable service provision. In Tanzania, however, the protection environment remained restrictive, with lack of access of Burundian asylum-seekers to asylum, reports of refoulement, strict encampment policy and very limited livelihood and self-reliance initiatives.