Five years as a refugee and still not safe to go home


Ciara Smith is a Programme Development and Funding Officer for Age International. She writes about her experience meeting Burundian refugees in Tanzania.

A few months ago I visited Nduta refugee camp in North West Tanzania.  Nduta hosts Burundian refugees and asylum seekers who have fled the ongoing internal conflict in their home country, and have travelled hundreds of miles to safety in Kibondo, Tanzania.

The Burundian refugee response is among the least funded humanitarian crises globally (according to UNHCR) and the refugees arrive in Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to find camps full and only temporary shelters available.

Supporting people to generate their own income

While at Nduta Refugee Camp I met Ngurubzira, a 72-year-old woman who has been living at the camp since 2015. She has no family at the camp. We provided Ngurubriza with some items to make her life at Nduta more comfortable; a mattress, soap and clothing. Ngurubzira is also part of a group of women who are provided with the materials and training necessary to weave baskets. The group uses 50% of the income generated from selling these baskets to buy new materials and the rest is split evenly among the weavers. The income Ngurubzira receives can go towards buying additional food. Helping people like Ngurubzira generate their own income allows financial stability and dignity in very difficult circumstances.

Age International has been working in Nduta camp and other locations in Tanzania since 2015, assisting those most in need – older people, disabled people and those with chronic health conditions. We focus on giving access to physical rehabilitation, supplying mobile aids such as walking sticks and wheelchairs and providing psychosocial support. We work alongside other organisations based in the camp to ensure that older peoples’ voices are heard and their needs met. 

Another key activity is creating and facilitating Active Ageing Clubs for older people – these clubs are extremely important from a social aspect and are a fun and healthy space offering health services, exercise and an opportunity to come together and take part in traditional Burundian dancing and singing. 

A long-lasting humanitarian crisis

“Burundi’s refugees are being forgotten. The world needs to urgently help these refugees and the countries hosting them.”

Catherine Wiesner, Regional Refugee Coordinator and Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework Champion for the Burundi situation

The Burundian refugee crisis has been ongoing for five years. There are over 350,000 Burundian refugees in surrounding countries who have not yet returned home. Age International, our partners and other humanitarian organisations in Kibondo continue working hard to ensure that those most in need are supported.

Thank you for your donations and for helping us make a difference.