Burundi + 4 more

Great Lakes: UNICEF Humanitarian Appeal for Children and Women: Jan-Dec 2000

Originally published


  • Regional population of 86.5 million (excluding Tanzania)
  • War-affected population of 4.5 million
  • 3.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs)
  • 923,000 refugees
  • In 1999, numbers of war-affected increased 59 per cent, IDPs 76 per cent and refugees 15 per cent
  • Agricultural production severely disrupted by displacement
  • Host populations weakened by influx of displaced persons
  • Sweeping HIV/AIDS pandemic
  • Landmines
  • Child soldiers
  • Hosts 376,000 refugees from Great Lakes region, including 270,000 from Burundi, 95,000 from DRC and 7,500 from Rwanda, as well as 3,300 from Somalia
  • Refugee population outnumbers local population in some regions and continues to grow at a rate of a few hundred per day
  • HIV/AIDS a major health problem in the camps and surrounding villages
  • Refugees face threats to their physical safety, mainly from criminal/politically motivated elements within the refugee community
  • Significant numbers of refugee children are heads of households and subject to child labour
  • Retool and enhance existing programmes in order to ensure rapid emergency response capabilities; to develop complementary programmes rather than parallel programmes in emergencies; and to promote use of existing resources within the region;
  • Increase efforts towards psychosocial, tracing and family reunification services for the growing numbers of unaccompanied minors (UAMs) in the region; also increase number of programmes to reduce recruitment of child soldiers and assist in demobilization and reintegration strategies;
  • Mine awareness and support to mine victims.
  • Reduce spread of diseases contributing to high morbidity and mortality rates among Rwandan, Burundian and Congolese refugees living in Tanzania;
  • Establish emergency education and recreation activities for refugee children in Tanzania;
  • Provide minimum required calories and nutrients to refugees;
  • Promote safe water practices and hygiene among refugees in Tanzania in order to curb spread of water-borne diseases.
The regional crisis played out on Congolese soil involves six countries (Burundi, DRC, RoC, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) and numerous non-state actors, including foreign-armed militias based in the DRC. The most glaring manifestation of the conflict is the groundswell of uprooted women and children in virtually every country in the region, fleeing chaos and insecurity in nine neighbouring countries. Women and children in flight are weakened by poor nutrition and health, susceptible to disease epidemics from crowded unsanitary camp conditions and vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. HIV/AIDS contributes to rising numbers of UAMs in the region. In the absence of interventions, UAMs turn to or are recruited as child soldiers in the regional conflict.

The DRC Peace Agreement presents a unique opportunity for the international humanitarian community to integrate emergency relief activities with conflict resolution programmes that promote the peaceful resolution of disputes. Also proposed are capacity-building programmes to increase the sustainability of interventions promoting self-sufficiency. The 2000 Appeal targets coordination, assistance to vulnerable populations, protection/repatriation of refugees and returnees and reintegration activities. This Appeal covers activities in Burundi, DRC, RoC, Tanzania and Uganda. Tanzania is not in an emergency situation, but as host to the largest refugee population in the region, it is included to present the humanitarian situation of the refugees and the communities hosting refugees in Tanzania.


Great Lakes region
Regional emergency coordination, support and advocacy
Regional communication network
Regional warehouse - rolling stock
Hygiene, water and sanitation
Children in need of special protection measures
Tanzanian communities affected by refugee influxes
Intersectoral programme support


Over 4 million people are affected by the war in the Great Lakes region, and 90 per cent of them are agriculturists/pastoralists. The resulting impact upon household food security has been disastrous. Displacement has affected agricultural production, and fighting often results in the looting of stocks and the disruption of supply networks. Livestock is particularly vulnerable; a substantial reduction in the size of herds has been recorded. The isolation of large groups of people with no access to supply and marketing networks, health and veterinary services or schools and humanitarian assistance has fuelled a concomitant rise in poverty among both urban and rural populations. The growth of densely populated refugee and IDP camps with unsafe water, poor sanitation and poor personal hygiene has created breeding grounds for the outbreak of diseases. HIV spreads rapidly, and women and children are at increased risk of violence. A UN interagency meeting in July 1999 identified four foci of humanitarian crises in the region:

  • Violent conflict in eastern DRC pits armies of neighbouring States against armed militia opposed to their regime operating out of the DRC. The conflict has crystallized opposition to the DRC Government and aggravated simmering ethnic/economic/political conflicts.
  • Western DRC hosts thousands of refugees fleeing civil wars in Angola and RoC.
  • Southern DRC as well as Zambia host a sizeable number of Angolan refugees, and northern Zambia serves as a safe haven for DRC refugees.
  • The conflict in Burundi has created the largest IDP population within its borders and the largest refugee population in the region seeking asylum in Tanzania.

Deployment of peacekeeping forces in DRC is expected to increase access to war-affected populations and reveal greater numbers of women and children in need. Tension between Rwanda and Uganda could develop into renewed military confrontations on Congolese territory. Ceasefire provisions targeting insurgent movements are expected to be difficult to implement. Rwanda is expected to maintain its presence in the DRC.

Disentangling from DRC will be complicated. Mountainous areas bordering DRC will continue to be the site of fighting between the Ugandan army and rebel movements, with the civilian population caught in the middle.

The DRC peace agreement could shift the front line of conflict to Burundi, resulting in intensified violence against civilians, as occurred with the recent forced displacement of populations for military purposes and the attack on and assassination of relief workers in October 1999. Internal displacement and large outflows of refugees to Tanzania are expected to continue. Tanzania will continue to host large numbers of Congolese refugees as well.

In RoC, six years of fierce fighting have created extremist political views anchored in ethnic allegiance. IDPs are expected to return to their hometowns as soon as possible. Modest reconstruction efforts in urban areas are anticipated.


For over 30 years, Tanzania has provided asylum to refugees from neighbouring countries, and currently hosts refugees from Burundi (270,000), DRC (95,000), Rwanda (7,500) and Somalia (3,300). The influx continues as the peace process in both DRC and Burundi labours on. Pending identification of a durable solution to their plight, refugees and asylum-seekers in Tanzania are provided health, water and sanitation, shelter and family needs, food and primary education services. Counselling and limited secondary educational assistance are provided to urban refugees. Proximity to the border exposes refugees to the armed conflicts occurring in their countries of origin. Within and outside the camps, refugees face the threat of physical harm from criminal and/or politically motivated elements within the refugee community. Refugee women, in particular, are vulnerable to sexual violence.

Over the years, the Government and people of Tanzania have grown increasingly intolerant of the refugee crisis. Not only does it destabilize the region, but it also jeopardizes domestic security and strains local resources. Assistance to refugee-affected areas includes institution- and capacity-building to improve the delivery of services to local populations. Support includes the selective rehabilitation of schools, health centres and water facilities, environmental rehabilitation activities in and around the camps, and the provision of technical assistance to the central, regional and district authorities involved in the day-to-day management of refugee affairs. The Tanzanian communities are increasingly involved in planning, implementing and monitoring programmes targeting local villages.


Repatriation efforts dominated UN activities in the Great Lakes region in 1999, including the voluntary return of Rwandan refugees from western Tanzania and eastern DRC. The organized repatriation of Burundians from the DRC was initiated in May, as was the return of RoC refugees from the DRC.

UNICEF's participation in the Country Programme includes humanitarian and capacity-building assistance in the areas of health and nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child rights/child protection. UNICEF supports basic education programmes, undertakes tracing and reunification of separated children and provides therapeutic and supplementary food. Where needed, UNICEF also provides non-food relief. The programmes seek to benefit not only the refugees and the IDPs but also the host communities affected by the influx. UNICEF is the lead Agency for the provision of basic primary education materials and teacher training.

In Burundi, UNICEF

  • supports temporary schools in camps and conducts tracing programmes to reunite children separated from their families;
  • as lead Agency for nutrition interventions, provides therapeutic and supplementary feeding supplies to nutritional centres throughout the country, and is responsible for case management protocols for beneficiaries in nutritional centres;
  • as lead Agency for water and sanitation, trucks emergency water supplies to displaced camps and health centres, and builds/repairs water systems serving rural areas.
  • organized campaigns against measles and polio;
  • battled cholera in Kivu and Province Orientale;
  • reinforced drug distribution systems;
  • reinforced therapeutic feeding centres;
  • provided assistance to elementary schools in Goma town;
  • established communication networks for all UN Agencies in Goma, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) (Kampala).
In Tanzania, UNICEF
  • sustained programmes for immunization, safe motherhood, supplementary feeding and general health for an estimated 74,000 children under five years of age and 28,000 pregnant and lactating women;
  • made commendable efforts towards adoption of primary education curricula and school manuals for the estimated 96,000 Burundian and DRC primary schoolchildren in order to give them better chances of reintegration once repatriated;
  • in collaboration with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), agreed to a more proactive role in accelerating the tracing process for the 2,600 unaccompanied minors in Tanzania camps;
  • achieved high immunization coverage rates: BCG/measles: 90 per cent; polio/DPT III: 95 per cent; TT3: 80 per cent of pregnant women;
  • trained primary schoolteachers, traditional birth attendants and community workers;
  • provided integrated support to local communities affected by refugee influx for school rehabilitation, water, and child survival, protection and development;
  • implemented recommendation of 1998 Joint Assessment Mission and increased supplementary food provided to pregnant women in third trimester of pregnancy. This initiative has led to a reduction in the prevalence of low birthweight babies in the refugee camps.
During 1999, UNICEF modified the programme content and working methodology for humanitarian activities in western Tanzania. While the core projects of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child protection were enhanced through the provision of additional technical assistance and supplies, two additional elements were introduced. First, an education-based HIV/AIDS training course was introduced to stem the spread of the pandemic. Second, in Kibondo district, UNICEF introduced the Child Survival, Protection and Development methodology, a community-based assessment and implementation strategy. UNICEF will expand both the HIV/AIDS and community-based activities within a child rights perspective in 2000.

UNICEF's 1999 Appeal for the Great Lakes region ($700,000) went completely unfunded. WFP food assistance, UNHCR refugee assistance/protection programmes and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) activities were funded at a level of $169,467,498, satisfying just over 66 per cent of programme needs.


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