Tanzania + 1 more

Staff of life in western Tanzania

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By Carolyn Pichert, IRC Tanzania program assistant

Mtendeli Refugee Camp, Kibondo District, Tanzania 03 May 2007 - Samson Kwizera has been working for the International Rescue Committee in Tanzania since 1998, first as a guard, then as a food-distribution clerk and storekeeper. Since 2002, he has been meals supervisor at the Mtendeli refugee camp.

"You must be sure the rations are prepared on time," he says, adding that he oversees 11 helpers. "I must supervise the mixing to ensure fairness and take inventory."

The IRC runs the nutrition program in four Kibondo district refugee camps, providing services for the malnourished and at-risk, including pregnant and lactating women and HIV-positive individuals. The IRC also provides health and psychosocial assistance to approximately 60,000 refugees, mostly Burundian, and some 300,000 Tanzanian nationals, while also maintaining educational, recreational and reproductive health activities for refugee youth between the ages of 12 and 19.

Throughout the camps, the IRC employs refugees as staff. When these staff members choose to repatriate, the IRC provides them with references to help them in their job searches in their countries of origin.

"The knowledge I have been provided through training, like infant-feeding and management of malnutrition, has helped me," says Kwizera.

In addition, the IRC promotes the safety of women and girls and gives them as many educational and capacity-building opportunities as possible. Niyonkuru Ester is one such youth who benefits from the vocational training. "I am learning sewing and getting comfortable with the skill," she says. "I have been learning for six months now, training to be a tailor."

In 2007, the IRC will focus on short-term skills training for adolescents, both in and out of school, to provide them with marketable skills of use upon repatriation to Burundi. (Currently, UNHCR promotes repatriation for Burundian refugees.) Already, IRC-sponsored youth centers have helped 909 adolescents become involved in income-generating activities and skills training.

IRC's Tanzania program will continue its efforts to build refugee capacity, increase educational opportunities, increase awareness and prevention of gender-based violence, and provide comprehensive health care and counseling to the refugees residing in western Tanzania.