UNHCR operations in Burundi were affected by a deepening socio-economic situation and humanitarian crisis characterized by high malnutrition rates and limited livelihood opportunities. Burundi’s protection environment remained complex throughout 2019. Challenges in UNHCR and Government relations constrained humanitarian access. The Government’s efforts to enforce 2017 legislation, requiring ethnic quotas for the Burundian staff of international NGOs, resulted in some partners discontinuing their operations in Burundi. Protection delivery and response, as well as durable solutions for protracted refugee caseloads, were impacted as a result.
Despite significant funding gaps in the response plan for refugees in Burundi, the country continued to uphold its open-door asylum policy, hosting over 87,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, most of whom were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
A persistent pattern of human rights violations which led over 400,000 Burundian nationals to flee since April 2015 remained largely unresolved, while new political tensions in the lead-up to the May 2020 elections drove more Burundians into exile. Conditions remained thus unconducive to large-scale, sustainable return. Nonetheless, UNHCR continued to facilitate the repatriation of Burundian refugees on a voluntary basis, mainly from the United Republic of Tanzania (Tanzania), as well as small numbers from Kenya and the DRC. The regional refugee response and reintegration plans for Burundian returnees, however, both remain largely underfunded.
At the Global Refugee Forum in December 2019, Burundi pledged to finalize its accession to both statelessness conventions.
The total number of refugees and asylum-seekers in Burundi stood at nearly 87,500, representing a 12% increase from 2018 and including over 11,300 refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing insecurity from the DRC’s South Kivu province. Nearly 21,200 Burundian refugees returned during the year, with most returning from the United Republic of Tanzania. According to IOM, nearly 80,700 Burundians were internally displaced throughout the year, largely due to natural disasters (floods) and climate-change resulting in food insecurity. Burundi was also host to nearly 1,000 Omani nationals who were at risk of statelessness.
- A new carbon-free refugee camp was built in Nyankanda, Ruyigi, with a solar-powered biomass briquettes production unit, which supplements insufficient cooking fuels and provides both refugees and host communities with income-generating activities.
- A new returnee transit center was built in Kinazi, Muyinga, to temporarily accommodate arriving returnees.
- A partnership agreement was signed with Lumitel for mobile money transfers to refugees and returnees in order to implement cash-based interventions.
- Returnee monitoring was undertaken in all areas of return to inform programming.
- The Burundi operation received 45% of required funds in 2019. The lack of funding impacted the level of assistance that was provided in both urban and camp refugee settings.
- Minimum standards in water and sanitation were unmet, also as a result of underfunding, as was the provision of food assistance, non-food items and core relief items including hygienic kits in transit centers and camps.
- Owing to budget constraints UNHCR was not able to provide capacity building for government authorities and technical staff on international protection and asylum management. Further, budget constraints led to a shortfall in legal aid for refugee status determination, and delays in obtaining card printers and cartridges in order to print refugee identification cards.
- Activities targeted at IDPs were limited, which hampered the mainstreaming of protection across all sectors.
Issues and Challenges
The Government of Burundi made efforts to stabilize the country and improve the general security situation. President Nkurunziza reiterated his commitment to not run for the elections scheduled from May to September 2020 (presidential, legislative, local and senatorial), and promulgated a new constitution that had been approved by referendum in 2018. Burundian politicians in exile requested the Government of Burundi to stop the prosecutions targeting some of them, release political prisoners in custody and ensure only the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees as conditions to their participation in the elections. In February 2019, due to limited progress, the East African Community ended its facilitation of the Inter-Burundian Dialogue. The operational environment remained complex following a new law on ethnic quotas in staffing and the requirement that all international NGOs share the ethnicity of their national staff, affecting the humanitarian response to people in need.
Effective access to basic social services (health and education in particular) and to the labour market remained limited across Burundi for people of concern to UNHCR. The Government of Burundi maintained its open-door policy and provided protection to refugees and those seeking asylum despite socioeconomic hardship. National security considerations have severely limited full inclusion of refugees in Burundi, and the Government of Burundi had not yet implemented the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) nor the Global Compact on Refugees. Following assessments by the World Bank, Burundi was considered eligible for the IDA18 sub-window for the period 2020 to 2025. The funding benefits both refugees and host communities with the goal of sustainable economic inclusion and peaceful coexistence resulting in the expansion of the protection space in the country. As of December 2019, UNHCR had received over 79,000 Burundian refugees returning from the United Republic of Tanzania and other asylum countries since facilitated repatriation started in September 2017.
Tensions steadily increased between Rwanda and Burundi, making it difficult for UNHCR to assist those Burundian refugees in Rwanda who might wish to voluntarily repatriate. Displacement and outflows continued due to the deterioration of the socioeconomic, political and human rights situations in the pre-electoral period and were likely to continue if the prevailing political tensions were not addressed. The challenging sociopolitical environment prevented the Government of Burundi from finalizing its accession to both statelessness conventions. UNHCR was engaged in the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP 2019-2020) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2019-2023) and was contributing to the Refugee Response Plan (RRP-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) situation and RRRP-Burundi situation).
With UNDP, UNHCR developed the Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan (JRRRP), a strategic document aiming to structure the reintegration process in Burundi and to mobilize funds for voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration. UNHCR developed a Peace Building Fund (PBF) project on national reintegration with UNDP, UNFPA and FAO; it also implemented a cross-border PBF project with IOM and UNDP in Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania and signed letters of understanding with key strategic and implementing partners, such as WFP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, IOM and World Vision.
Partnership and Coordination
In 2019, UNHCR collaborated with a range of partners, namely the Government of Burundi, UN agencies, operational and implementing partners, donors, refugees as well as other people of concern. All partners played a role in the design of the country operation plan, defining priorities together and remaining in continuous contact to ensure that implementation reflected these priorities. The Government of Burundi routinely assisted and extended protection to both refugees and asylum-seekers. This was illustrated through UNHCR’s close working relationship with ONPRA, an agency within the Ministry of Interior, responsible for the reception and status determination of refugees, coordination and camp-management.
In terms of the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees, UNHCR collaborated very closely in 2019 with both the Government of Burundi and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania by calling for the Tripartite Meeting which was held in Dar-es-Salaam organized November 2019. A new agreement was signed during this meeting including a detailed action plan. As part of the Global Compact on Refugees, the World Bank sought UNHCR’s expertise and on-the-ground knowledge in order to roll out a $60 million project geared towards the improvement of nutrition, social services and economic opportunities for those specific regions hosting refugees in Burundi. Together, the World Bank and UNHCR negotiated to ensure refugees were also considered as direct recipients of assistance, to expand their freedom of movement across provinces, and to provide them the opportunity to receive micro-enterprise grants to start and grow businesses, alongside the Burundian host community.
Expanding secondary education opportunities, a letter of understanding was signed with Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) to support Congolese refugee students. This agreement enabled UNHCR to increase the number of Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) scholarship recipients from 67 to 87 students for the 2019-2020 calendar year. UNHCR also developed a new media platform integrated on the Burundi situation data portal on UNHCR’s Global Focus website, providing donors and the public at large with access to up to date information, including factsheets, reports and statistics. Of particular importance were monitoring reports posted on the platform which not only provided insights about the conditions and challenges facing returnees but also served as an effective platform to increase awareness and mobilize resources. In October 2019, UNHCR coordinated with its counterparts including the Government of Burundi, UN agencies and NGOs to update and strengthen a contingency plan for both the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Burundi situations should another emergency drive higher numbers into Burundi.
Efforts to advocate and mobilize resources for refugees beyond UNHCR’s budget were ongoing, with several encouraging examples seen in 2019. First, the NGO Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), using its own funding, constructed three classrooms in the Kavumu refugee camp while the NGO Civil Voluntarism Group (Gruppo Volontariato Civile GVC) built a new health centre in the Nyankanda camp, again without direct financial support from UNHCR. Further achievements included a letter of understanding signed between UNHCR and World Vision International, enabling the NGO to implement WASH activities in the Kinama camp. And lastly, the Government continued to make land available for UNHCR to expand its repatriation programme and refugee camps, including a plot of land already designated, should a sixth refugee camp be required.
UNHCR encountered considerable constraints in 2019, for example lower than expected financial commitments made to the Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan, impacting the planned extension of activities for reintegration of returnees in 2020.
UNHCR and government counterparts commenced a country-wide biometric verification of people of concern to UNHCR in November 2019. which continued into the first quarter of 2020. Biometric enrolment using the Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) detected duplicate registrations, refugees in secondary movement from their first country of asylum, and individuals registered on both sides of the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) whose declared nationality was in question. As of 31 December 2019, the total refugee and asylum-seeker population was 87,476 representing a 12%increase over the 2018 year-end figure of 77,177. 78,474refugees and 9,003 asylum-seekers and a small number of others of concern, residing in Bujumbura and the camps located in the provinces of Ruyigi, Muyinga, Cankuzo and Ngozi, were registered in the proGres database. Trends in new arrivals showed that 11,360 people fled from the DRC with a peak around mid-July and August 2019 due to armed conflict in the Sud Kivu. A further 47 asylum-seekers from the Central African Republic, Rwanda and Uganda were registered during 2019.
Internal displacement continued to pose a significant challenge to the Government of Burundi. United Nations agencies and their partners provided limited assistance. Only sporadic and limited resources were allocated to projects related to internally displaced persons (IDPs). In 2019 most displacement was caused by disasters in several provinces due to seasonal heavy rains and increased socioeconomic vulnerability of the local population. Many flooded areas were still not habitable. Periods of conflict and instability also produced several waves of displacement. IDPs mainly found refuge with relatives and friends, at collective sites, in temporary shelters, rented houses, as well as in public infrastructure such as schools, open spaces and other public buildings. According to IOM’s Data tracking matrix (DTM), as of 31 December 2019, 104,191 people were displaced, 80,685 were due to natural disasters and 23,506 due to other causes.
21,174 Burundian refugees returned to Burundi in 2019 from asylum countries in the region. 20,916 Burundians returned from the United Republic of Tanzania, 156 from Kenya, 96 from the DRC, 4 from Zambia, 1 from Senegal and 1 from Cameroon as of 31 December 2019. This brought the total of returnees assisted by UNHCR to 79,720 since the resumption of the voluntary repatriation operation in September 2017. Returnees were systematically registered and verified in BIMS. Many Burundians were returning to areas which also hosted IDPs and refugees, putting pressure on already overburdened infrastructure and services. Land disputes, competition for natural resources and means of transportation and subsistence were challenges faced by returnees. Burundian refugees who returned spontaneously did not receive significant support and remained vulnerable and exposed until they were properly reintegrated into their villages. As of 31 December 2019, 974 people of Omani descent are reported as stateless people. In total, there were 143,810 people of concern to UNHCR in Burundi at the end of 2019.
UNHCR worked intensively for the protection of all people seeking protection in Burundi, by making sure their access to the country and to national refugee status determination (RSD) procedures were guaranteed. 15,465 asylum-seekers were received in Cishemere, directly or after arriving in Rumonge, and assisted with registration, food and non-food items, health and water, sanitation and hygiene. All of the 87,476 refugees and asylum-seekers in the country (37,625 urban refugees and 48,269 camp-based refugees and asylum-seekers) received either full assistance for camp-based refugees or targeted assistance for urban refugees. All were documented and received civil documentation (birth, marriage and death certificates), as well as identification cards for those who were eligible.
UNHCR started a verification exercise in November for all asylum-seekers and refugees in the country with a full roll out of the Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS). This exercise was planned to be continued in 2020 and to be finalized by the end of the first quarter. The registration standard operating procedures (SOPs) were amended. The refugee committees were renewed, with full and qualitative representation. As for durable solutions, UNHCR had a target of 4,000 individuals to be referred for resettlement in 2019 and the Nairobi Regional Support Hub (RSH) had the same target for submissions. UNHCR referred 3,580 people (90% of the quota) and the RSH submitted 3,742 (94%). Very few cases were repatriated, as conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were not yet generally conducive to a voluntary repatriation in conditions of security.
The East African Community (EAC), of which Burundi is a member, was in the process of adopting a common policy (and had taken concrete steps to this end) on the management of refugees in the member countries. The Government of Burundi participated to all the pertinent dialogues and meetings of UNHCR on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) and Global Compact/Forum on Refugees. The Government of Burundi was closely working with UNHCR and the World Bank, in the framework of the IDA18 regional subwindow for refugees and host communities on the implementation of projects aiming to increase peaceful coexistence between refugees and their hosting communities in the country. In 2019, UNHCR and partners facilitated the voluntary repatriation of 21,174 Burundian refugees out of an initial planning figure of 116,000 refugees.
In December 2019, UNHCR welcomed the conclusions of the 21st Meeting of the Tripartite Commission for the Voluntary Repatriation of Burundian Refugees which was held in Dar es Salaam in November 2019 by the three parties, the Governments of Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania, and UNHCR. Throughout 2019, Burundian returnees were all received in the transit centres, provided with certificates of recognition by the Government of Burundi, transported to final destinations in Burundi, and received cash amounts differentiated for adults and minors, food and non-food items as well as support for their reintegration. UNHCR implemented qualitative protection monitoring, both of returnees and their areas of return. With regard to IDPs, UNHCR continued to lead coordination of the protection sector. For people of Omani descent, the Government of Burundi granted a temporary residence permit (permis de séjour temporaire, PST). The National Assembly also adopted laws on accession to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The Government of Burundi committed itself to the full ratification of these conventions during the Global Forum on Refugees in December 2019 in Geneva.
The funds allocated to UNHCR in Burundi have been decreasing for the past two years, making it very difficult to implement the programmes planned for the populations of concern to UNHCR. While concrete progress was made in 2019, the Office noted some gaps in the implementation of its protection mandate. The standards of assistance for refugees were negatively impacted by the decrease of funds both in urban settlements and in camps. Gaps included WASH, food assistance and non-food items (e.g. hygienic kits for women, warm clothes as the northern camps were in cold areas of the country); and health care with insufficient coverage (for urban refugees), unavailability of medicine in the country and lack of skilled personnel. Shelter was drastically affected by climate conditions and recurrent heavy rains in Burundi beginning in September 2019. Ensuring adequate and sufficient sources of energy including alternative sources was costly and challenging.
Asylum-seekers and refugees with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and intersex (LGBTI) profiles were not given access to national refugee status determination (RSD) procedures despite UNHCR’s strong advocacy on this question. As such, LGBTI cases remained without effective government protection even though the Office was able to determine their status under its mandate. Without enough funds, UNHCR was not able to secure safe houses for them, leaving individuals vulnerable and exposed to harassment and violence. Another gap was the provision of protection activities by implementing partners, as the funds available did not allow for the provision of sufficient assistance. For repatriation, the funds available did not cover reintegration activities. The return package was limited, and the cash provided to returnees was inadequate, considering their real needs, the time spent outside of the country and the areas of return, which were affected by poverty and climate conditions.
UNHCR was not able, with the available funds, to secure the positions of the two staff managing protection monitoring of returnees and their areas of return. This is an essential activity for UNHCR’s protection mandate, and an important part of UNHCR’s strategic efforts to play a catalytic role in reintegration activities. Activities to assist IDPs in the country were also needed, especially during the last quarter of 2019, when heavy rains caused new displacement. UNHCR was not able to contribute to assistance efforts, which impacted its leading role in the mainstreaming of protection across all sectors of the response. UNHCR also needed funds to expand its sensitization campaign on Burundi’s accession to the two statelessness conventions. It did not do this sufficiently in 2019 and lost some opportunities to build links with the senate and academic fora.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In 2019, assistance and protection activities were carried out in a difficult operational environment. Protection remained available for asylum-seekers, the majority of whom were Congolese, however, Burundi maintained reservations to the 1951 Convention relating to freedom of movement, the rights to paid employment and education. In collaboration with the National Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (ONPRA), UNHCR continued to protect and assist 48,269 refugees and asylum-seekers living in the five camps established in Burundi (Kinama, Musasa , Bwagiriza, Kavumu and Nyankanda), as well as 37,625 refugees and asylum-seekers living mainly in the municipality of Bujumbura, its surrounding areas, and at the transit centers of Cishemere (Cibitoke Province) and Makombe (Rumonge Province).
Recognized Congolese refugees continued to be settled in the new Nyankanda camp opened on 18 April 2019. UNHCR focused on protecting populations under its mandate and finding lasting solutions to their problems using strategic and operational partnerships, and participatory assessments to assist the protracted refugee population continued to grow. Out of 3,742 refugees submitted in 2019, 2,928 were resettled to third countries during the same period. Verification of refugees and asylum-seekers living in Burundi was done during the fourth quarter of 2019 to address the problem of outdated data. Camp-based people of concern were regularly assisted with food and briquettes every month. A briquette (composite fuel) press machine for local briquette production was installed in Nyankanda.
Medical care involved curative and preventive care for refugees and asylum-seekers in camps and urban areas, including more than ten thousand asylum-seekers who were received at the transit centre in Cishemere during 2019 as well as host populations from surrounding villages. Steps were taken to prevent Ebola. Other activities included energy, environmental protection, hygiene and sanitation promotion, construction, rehabilitation of shelters and community infrastructure, drinking water supply, education for 25,956 students, empowerment, child protection, documentation, continuous registration, assistance to people with specific needs, prevention and response to SGBV, access to justice, and basic assistance.
Many refugees from South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were in a protracted situation. Influxes continued at various paces following the activities of several armed groups. However, resettlement opportunities to third countries remained limited. Although Burundi has had a generous refugee policy for a long time, its registration, refugee status determination and documentation procedures required further strengthening, with the response remaining largely dependent on UNHCR. The reception conditions at Cishemere transit centre required improvement. The extension work for this transit centre was unable to be undertaken because of location-related limitations.
Advocacy for the inclusion of refugees in existing national strategies for education, health, child protection and the fight against sexual and gender-based violence was ongoing. Access to freedom of movement was also a challenge, especially for refugees in camps due to security restrictions put in place by local authorities. UNHCR continued to be concerned about negative attitudes on the part of some local authorities and security forces towards the urban refugee population. Advocacy for the adoption of a comprehensive durable solutions strategy considering all the populations on the move in the country was ongoing although the forthcoming general elections in May 2020 may affect this work.
The quantity of briquettes distributed in the camps remained insufficient. Dilapidated community infrastructure, including individual shelters, latrines, showers, kitchens, classrooms and distribution sheds, persisted in the four older camps due to lack of funds. This budget deficit also impacted on people with specific needs, including access to special education or orthopedic devices, child protection and supervision of youth not receiving education, recreational activities, child-friendly spaces, and nutrition such as food supplements.
In 2019, UNHCR continued to advocate with the Government of Burundi for the adoption of a legal framework for combating statelessness in accordance with the commitments it made in the October 2017 Declaration of International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) Member States on the Eradication of Statelessness. In this context UNHCR, in collaboration with the Government of Burundi via the national focal point and the National Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (ONPRA), focused its efforts primarily on advocating the establishment of competent authorities to adopt legislation conforming to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. As of December 2019, 974 individuals of Omani origin who are stateless were living in Burundi. Initial sensitization activities were carried out, in particular with the Senate which had yet to consider the two bills as adopted by the National Assembly on 19 September 2018. At each parliamentary session, an intention was expressed regarding the inclusion of those bills within the legislation under consideration.
In addition, as part of efforts to raise awareness, Government national focal points on statelessness as well as representatives from the Ministries of Justice and of the Interior received support to participate in a ministerial conference on the eradication of statelessness in the Great Lakes Region organized by the Government of Kenya with the ICGLR Secretariat and UNHCR, which took place in Nairobi in April 2019. At the end of this conference, it was decided to extend the action plan of ICGLR on the eradication of statelessness was extended until 2024. Considering the preparatory nature of this regional event ahead of the High-Level Segment on Statelessness to be held in October 2019 , each Member State of the ICGLR was invited to formulate indicative commitments leading to the eradication of statelessness in view of the global event organized by UNHCR for States and other key actors to make new pledges to mark the halfway point of the #Ibelong Campaign. Burundi thus formulated the following indicative commitments at the regional preparatory event in April 2019:(i) Before October 2019, ensure that the Parliament gives its assent to the accession process to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; (ii) Before October 2019, adopt and validate a national action plan to end statelessness; (iii) Before 2024, take advantage of the existing momentum to reform the nationality law; and (iv) By 2024, fully sensitize the people of Omani origin on the legal options available to them, including naturalisation as Burundian citizens.
Following the indicative commitments made by the Representative of the Government of Burundi at Nairobi in April 2019, UNHCR continued to encourage the finalization of the legislative process to ensure prompt deposit of accession instruments to both stateliness conventions by the Government of Burundi and the revision of the nationality law to bring it in line with international standards against statelessness.
Gaps remained in terms of raising awareness with the people of Omani descent who lack any nationality despite their birth and habitual residence in Burundi, for whom the only solution would the acquisition of the Burundian nationality.
The voluntary repatriation operation, also known as “VolRep”, in Burundi started in September 2017 following the resolutions of the Tripartite Commission involving UNHCR and the Governments of Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania. Repatriation forms part of the durable solutions proposed by UNHCR for refugees who have shown a willingness to return home. The strategy in 2019 remained the same, namely, the facilitation of voluntary return. The VolRep operation contains several core activities, including the reception of buses carrying returnees at the borders of Kobero (Muyinga), Mabamba (Ruyigi) and Mugina (Makamba), and providing accommodation in the transit centres for a maximum duration of 48 hours. During this time, various partners are involved and perform specialized functions: the Directorate General for the Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration of Refugees and War Displaced (Direction Générale du Rapatriement, de la Réinstallation et de la Réintégration des Réfugiés et des Déplacés de guerre, DGRRR), the government agency dealing with repatriation, is responsible for issuing repatriation recognition certificates; the national NGO COPED (Council for Education and Development) is in charge of construction, maintenance and repair of the transit centres; CARITAS oversees the distribution of food, non-food items and cash; GVC provides all medical screenings and care to people with specific needs, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) coordinates all secondary transport to returnees’ final destinations.
In 2019, all returnees arriving in Burundi received a return package consisting of non-food items, food rations from the WFP and cash ($40 for each adult and $20 for each child). At the start of 2020, these cash grant amounts were increased by 70%, and UNHCR was working with a financial service provider to transfer the money via mobile money. The sustainable reintegration of Burundian returnees represented a major challenge in a context where economic conditions were extremely difficult. Burundi has a general government unit responsible for repatriation, was expected to facilitate the further development of its reintegration program. The participation of civil society and the private sector in services provided for reintegration was another aspect that had the potential to improve the sustainability of return and to achieve a higher level of quality.
UNHCR and UNDP, working together, developed a joint reintegration plan for Burundi (the Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan). Other actors, in particular development actors, UN agencies and international NGOs, have joined the plan, which aims to structure reintegration activities by sector, defining a comprehensive strategy to support the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees, followed by reintegration activities to ensure the sustainability of this repatriation. The plan is designed to help mobilize the resources needed to respond to repatriation, well beyond the humanitarian phase. The data collected by UNHCR during the first phase of voluntary repatriation and during the first weeks of monitoring will help inform the actors in their specific areas. This plan was presented to and approved by the Government of Burundi in August 2019. It is in line with existing national plans and strategies, in particular the National Development Plan and the National Strategy for the Reintegration of Disaster Victims.
In 2019, 21,174 Burundians were repatriated from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Senegal, the United Republic of Tanzania, and Zambia and were received in the six transit centres (Kajaga, Gitara, Gisuru, Nyabitare, Songore and Kinazi). More than 80%of repatriated families (23,349 families of the 27,058 already received) were interviewed as part of protection monitoring. In all, 69 protection incidents were reported and 62 focus group discussions were held between May and September 2019 in the 20 most populated return areas with host communities and returnees, including the areas of Ruyigi (Gisuru, Kinyinya, Nyabitsinda), Muyinga (Giteranyi, Muyinga), Makamba (Nyanza- Lac, Kayogoro,), and Rutana (Giharo).
Just over 325,811 Burundians remained refugees in the countries of the East Africa and Great Lake sub-region. Many of them continued to return spontaneously due to a lack of a tripartite agreement with the countries of asylum and or due to the long waiting periods often involved until travel arrangements are made. The in-kind assistance provided to each household by means of a three-month ration as part of the return package proved insufficient according to the post-return monitoring findings. The rations rapidly run out. Returnee households were often forced to monetize their rations to meet unmet needs such as housing and other education and health-related expenses. The recent 70%increase may help in this respect but UNHCR will continue to advocate, especially if the election is incident-free, for a re-calculation of the return package, should returns become promoted. In general, there were very few reintegration projects for a sustainable return. The duration of the sporadic support projects under the Peace Building Fund (PBF) and the limited number of people covered continued to result in unmet needs. In terms of integration projects, government capacity remained very limited in light of the needs of returnees. The challenges related to spontaneous returns, although included within UNHCR’s strategy, had not yet been formally addressed.
In 2019, UNHCR did not have a budget for protection and assistance activities for internally displaced persons (IDPs), nor did it have direct access to IDPs. Protection monitoring was conducted by the partner Caritas. As needed, cases were referred to ICRC and the African Union for their intervention and response. UNHCR, as lead of the protection cluster, indirectly assisted IDPs through its leadership and coordination of about 20 humanitarian partner organizations, UN agencies and local and international. Partners responded to the protection needs of IDPs, returnees and members of the host community according to vulnerability without distinguishing between their status. Precise numbers of IDPs were difficult to establish for reasons set out in the Population group: Burundian returnees section. Protection interventions provided by partners facilitated through UNHCR’s coordination included birth registration and documentation for IDPs and reducing protection risks such as sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). The operation continued to face challenges in its work with IDPs, primarily due to lack of direct access to this population. The Government of Burundi has allowed UNHCR to support efforts to respond to the needs of IDPs displaced due to disasters such as flooding, landslides and drought.
According to the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) figures for 31 December 2019, 77%of the 104,191 IDPs in Burundi were displaced due to disasters, while about 23% of IDPs remained displaced due to other reasons. Most of the latter group had been displaced for about five years often lodging with other families and were reluctant to seek protection or assistance, placing them in a vulnerable situation. The numbers of IDPs in IOM’s DTM were therefore an estimate. With sensitivities in the run-up to the May 2020 elections, a Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) exercise that was planned for 2019 was postponed, recalling that the last JIPS exercise in 2013 was not ratified by the Government of Burundi.
IDPs, particularly those who were displaced for reasons other than disasters, had limited access to services such as education and health care, unless they had documentation. Being dispossessed of their land and property, and without status, they were in danger of being exploited. When they try to seek work, they are obliged to accept the lowest rates of pay or work without pay or proper conditions. Their status puts them at risk of being trafficked, and they are differentially at greater risk than the general population of sexual and gender-based violence. Because of their status they have reduced access to justice when they are exploited, and they are also at risk of arbitrary arrest as suspected political opponents. It is hoped that UNHCR’s September 2019 policy on renewed engagement with internal displacement will enable UNHCR to step up its protection, assistance and advocacy work for IDPs in 2020 and in future years.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
During the year 2019, UNHCR in collaboration with IRC, its child protection partner, continued reception, identification and protection activities to manage children at risk at the Cishemere transit centre, in Bujumbura and in refugee camps. As of 31 December 2019, according to UNHCR records, there were 4,515 children with specific needs. Among them 266 were unaccompanied children and 2,472 were separated children. Best interests related activities continued to be implemented for these children with a total of 2,218 best interests assessments (BIA) finalized in Bujumbura (587 BIAs for 317 girls and 270 boys), and in camps (in Ruyigi, 1,005 BIAs for 461 girls and 544 boys; and in Muyinga, 626 BIAs for 276 girls and 350 boys). In addition, 174 best interests determination reports (BID) were completed and validated by BID panels in Bujumbura and in refugee camps. 75 % of them recommended resettlement as the most appropriate durable solution.
Cross-border family tracing and reunification activities were conducted in close collaboration with ICRC. 163 children in need of cross border family tracing were referred to ICRC, however 28 of them were deemed not relevant to the ICRC mandate. Only eight unaccompanied children were reunified to their families in the DRC, leaving a backlog of cases that were pending tracing results by the close of 2019.
According to IRC reports, 973 children at risk (485 girls and 488 boys) received material assistance while 1,239 (551 girls and 688 boys) benefited from psychosocial assistance during the year.
UNHCR, in collaboration with other key stakeholders such as UNICEF, carried out strong advocacy for an update to and adoption of the national child protection policy 2020-2024. Capacity building was conducted by UNHCR and UNICEF in collaboration with the Burundian Government through its Ministry of Human Rights, Social Affairs and Gender, targeting national and local authorities as well as local and international NGOs intervening in the provinces of Ruyigi, Muyinga, Makamba and Bujumbura. The general theme was reinforcement of child protection mechanisms, with a focus on refugee and returnee children. This resulted in an updated mapping of services and work plans for child protection.
In order to create a stimulating environment offering children play, recreational and learning activities, and psychosocial support to assist children seeking asylum to regain a sense of normalcy and continuity, UNHCR Bujumbura established and equipped, through the Burundian Red Cross, a child-friendly space in the transit centreof Cishemere.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
In terms of improving of access to education, the construction and rehabilitation of classrooms (new classrooms constructed at Kavumu and 59 classrooms rehabilitated in the four older camps) allowed for the reduction of the pupil to classroom ratio from about 100 to 80 to 90 pupils per classroom; building and repair of desks allowed for the reduction of the number of children on a desk from six to three to four children per desk; and rehabilitation of five play areas created a safer environment for children to play in. Awareness campaigns for parents on the importance of education helped increase the attendance of children in schools. 29 urban children with disabilities were supported with travel costs, school uniforms and school fees. To increase community involvement in the management of schools in the refugee camps, 80 members of the Parents of Students Associations were trained on school administration and on collaboration between the heads of schools and members of these associations, including 28 women (and 24 heads of schools, including 5 women).
In the camps, 12,909 children benefited from primary education, while 4,300 youths were enrolled in lower and upper secondary education. For urban refugees, 21,799 pupils aged 3 and over, including 10,381 girls (48%) were attending the public basic schools (in Bujumbura), from grade 1 to grade 9. For tertiary education, thanks to funding from DAFI, 87 beneficiaries (including 25 girls, 29%) received scholarships and support from the DAFI/RET Programme (including transportation, communication and research costs as well as various trainings and continuous tutoring and pedagogical monitoring). UNHCR welcomed the support provided by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) for part of the scholarships for 20 refugees among the 87 beneficiaries. To expand the reach of this successful initiative, 40 new students were selected in November to start university studies in January 2020 under the DAFI Programme, including 14 girls (35%).
In order to improve the quality of primary and secondary education, 289 teachers were trained on pedagogy and SGBV prevention. These trainings and regular pedagogical monitoring have increased the success rate in national exams (1,352 camp-based primary school students completed the national examination and 85% passed it with satisfaction compared to 75% in 2018; and 273 camp-based secondary school students completed the national examination and 64% passed it compared to 50% in 2018). Textbooks were purchased for pupils as well as teaching materials for teachers of grades 7 and 8. Training in pedagogy was provided for 54 girls who were in their last year of secondary school and who passed the State Examination in the camps, in order to increase their chances of being recruited into teaching and to increase the rate of female teachers. 320 pupils in urban area, including 146 girls with difficulties in Kirundi language, took remedial courses in this language and the results were satisfactory. These achievements supported efforts towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all), UNHCR's Global Strategic Priorities and participatory assessments with people of concern.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
With the objective of providing enough energy to beneficiaries, in 2019 the monthly distribution of briquettes to refugees in the five camps was completed as planned. 270 solar lights were installed across the five camps. Nyankanda camp, in particular, was equipped with a solar field that provided electricity to all of its infrastructure (including classrooms, health centre, community buildings and distribution hangar etc). Local production of briquettes was initiated by installation of a solar-powered press briquette machine in Nyankanda camp, with support from the African Development Bank. However, as the production was not yet sufficient, UNHCR continued to purchase costly briquettes from a local supplier. Due to an increasing number of refugees in the camps, UNHCR was unable to provide all beneficiaries with the required quantities. Solar installations were established to ensure the lighting of camps and infrastructure, as the existing installations were insufficient. Consequently, security in camp was improved, especially for women and girls for whom the risk of SGBV was reduced.
The average percentage of households using alternative and/or renewable energy over the year was 75%, while the planned target was 91%. This gap was mainly cause by the unexpected increase of new arrivals. Fortunately, the press briquette machine installed in Nyankanda made it possible to serve these newcomers. Installing new briquette machines in all camps would make it possible to cover all the cooking energy needs of people of concern. Contrary to other core relief items, distribution of briquettes was not harmonized between camps, with refugees in the northern camps, having to cope with a colder climate, receiving more biofuel than their eastern counterparts.
Through fundraising and advocacy by UNHCR, the IKI Project made funds available to support Burundi in climate change prevention. In this regard, in addition to energy, 250 hectares of trees were planted in the areas where camps are located. Through this project, the initial target of 51 hectares was largely exceeded. Moreover, 61 hectares of existing woodland inside and around the Nyankanda camp were indexed and classified as a protected natural area in order to reduce the environmental impact of this new camp.
Additionally, 2,500 individual solar lamps with basic connectivity were distributed to refugee households with children enrolled in secondary education and beyond, resulting in a noticeable improvement in school performance and creating an income-generating activity for a number of refugees who use the basic connectivity to create phone-charging stations.
Finally, UNHCR led an in-depth shelter assessment, later reinforced by a study conducted by a team of experts mandated by the World Bank. Using the data provided in those reports, UNHCR designed 5-year strategies detailing the objectives and priorities of the organization in the areas of energy and environment.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
In line with the public health strategy 2019-2020 for UNHCR in Burundi, health interventions in 2019 remained focused on the reduction of morbidity and mortality, the reinforcement of immunization coverage as well as prevention and community mobilization against epidemics (including Ebola, cholera and ,malaria) at the urban level and in the five refugee camps. At camp level, 181,819 medical consultations were provided, including 166,354 consultations in the different health facilities in the refugee camps and 15,465 consultations in the Cishemere health centre. Regarding mental health, more than 2,250 consultations (new and old cases) were recorded during the year 2019.
In urban areas, health services were provided by two health facilities that had agreements with UNHCR’s medical partner Gruppo di Volontariato Civile (GVC). UNHCR supported the most vulnerable with 50% of their costs (100% of costs can be covered on a case-by-case basis) while other urban refugees with less dire health issues pay themselves. 3,502 people with special needs were assisted to ensure continuity of care in two health centres (Saint Michel centre and MOSUCOB). Negotiations continued with health insurance companies and other health facilities to facilitate access to health care for all urban refugees.
In 2019, as in previous years, the malaria epidemic continued to be a serious public health issue in refugee camps and throughout the country. This has led to an increase in morbidity and a slight increase in mortality among people of concern. Distribution of mosquito nets was carried out in the camps and transit centres.
Under the expanded programme of immunization (EPI), most children and pregnant women completed their vaccinations at their respective health facilities. Measles vaccination coverage was 92%. Regarding children absent during the vaccination campaigns, most of them were able to receive their routine vaccinations through a dedicated outreach campaign.
The epidemiological situation in the country was marked by a cholera outbreak and the Ebola preparedness response plan, as the epidemic was already raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Preventive measures (including isolation centres, personal protective equipment, thermoflash, training of medical staff and hand-washing points) were put in place in all refugee sites in the country.
In 2019, the strategy to reduce the causes of under-5 mortality was strengthened in the refugee camps through training of medical staff on integrated management of childhood illness (IMCI) protocols and their implementation, as in 2018. This reinforcement of staff capacity enabled the management of 54,772 cases of morbidity concerning children under 5 years of age.
The supply of 3 months' stock of drugs to health centres was ensured according to the needs expressed by each health centre. This availability of drugs in 2019 made it possible to avoid drug shortages, and to improve the quality of health care for the population in the camps and the transit cenre.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
Registration and profiling
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
The quality of registration and profiling was markedly improved in November 2019 with the launch of a three month exercise to verify and update the biodata of refugees in Burundi. Staff from UNHCR, ONPRA and IRC went on to interview approximately 80,000 urban and camp-based refugees and asylum seekers in the five refugee camps, the Cishemere transit centre and Bujumbura in the first verification exercise since 2013. As part of this exercise, for the first time in Burundi, refugee biometric data was digitally and permanently registered in UNHCR’s database with the same technology used in some of the world’s major airports. The Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) was introduced in Burundi to capture fingerprints and iris scans of refugees and asylum-seekers for all individuals over 4 years old, enhancing the integrity of the data of refugees and asylum-seekers in Burundi. BIMS gives each person of concern a unique and permanent identity globally by capturing their biometric data along with their full name and date of birth, thus protecting them against fraud and identity theft and problems if they lose their documents.
Alongside the verification exercise, and BIMS introduction, a socio-economic survey for 10% of the refugee population was conducted through random sampling, yielding data which will be useful for joint UNHCR and World Bank resilience projects.
With the improved registration and identification through BIMS it was expected that UNHCR will be able to better plan, protect, allocate resources and assistance, and work towards durable solutions for all people of concern and respond to the needs of vulnerable refugees more efficiently. In this way in 2019, 100% of people of concern were registered on an individual basis, and 100% had their data updated from the previous year.
The continuous updating of the database as well as a good management of physical files will also make it possible to reduce significantly cases of fraud, and allow for the processing of resettlement cases within the framework of the multi-year resettlement programme, in particular with regard to the diligent processing of vulnerable refugees identified for resettlement. In addition, the constant updating of the database will allow for accurate identification of vulnerable groups who may benefit from specific resilience programmes and other suitable interventions. Likewise, refugees in a protracted situation will be identified for appropriate responses to their needs.
Results and Impact
Monitoring the protection of returnees in Burundi was prioritized and remained one of UNHCR's strongest commitments under the tripartite agreement to facilitate analysis of and support for reintegration in areas of return.
Results obtained from protection monitoring conducted in 2019 revealed that lack of access to diversified income-generating activities, particularly for women and young people, posed a major problem in areas of return. 43% of the population aged 17 to 60 were unemployed after their return. Of the population consulted between May and October 2019, 64% indicated that the economic situation had not improved since the time they had left their country and sought asylum. The provinces most affected, according to the vulnerability assessment, were Kirundo, Ruyigi, Muyinga and Gitega, while provinces with an average level of vulnerability were Kanyanza, Karuzi and Ngozi.
Furthermore, 67% of assisted returnees had no shelter upon return, and this situation remained a major challenge preventing effective reintegration. In many cases, homes had been destroyed and damaged while individuals were seeking asylum outside of Burundi, with 71% of temporary shelters used by the returnees noted to be in very poor condition, while 28% were in medium condition. Only 2 % were assessed to be in good condition. Even though 82% of households had access to land, they did not have enough resources to develop the land. 75% of households were engaged in agriculture as their main source of income.
As part of activities under a Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) project funded by UNHCR, 80 youths were trained in social analysis, entrepreneurship and project development as well as in communication techniques; 203 people with specific needs received psychosocial support; 80 children identified with special needs also received the material assistance to reduce their vulnerability and 100 girls in need received dignity kits to promote their integration into the school system. Moreover, with funding by UNICEF, Hope 87 distributed school packages to 13,760 people (6,601 boys and 7,159 girls) in five provinces (Cankuzo, Kirondo, Makamba, Rumonge and Rutana) and enabled 14,600 people (6,888 boys and 7,712 girls) to attend remedial classes. Other humanitarian and development actors, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Burundian Red Cross (CRB), the Lutheran World Federation and Family Health International, funded various projects in the provinces of Ruyigi and Cankuzo. In the southern region of the country, reintegration projects targeting returnees and vulnerable people from the host community were supported by UNDP in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Rights and Social Affairs and Gender in pilot projects in five hills in the Giharo commune while another project (PNACDR-IM) targeted 15 hills also in Giharo.
Results and Impact
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
The ongoing security situation in the DRC and continued arrival of new refugees notably from eastern DRC impacted negatively on the potential for voluntary return. Prospects for local integration also remained challenging. Freedom of movement for refugees remained restricted and refugees remained vulnerable to discrimination, arbitrary arrest, detention and extortion. Due to reduced humanitarian assistance, camp- and urban-based refugee women and girls were particularly exposed to SGVB and survival sex. Moreover, opportunities for responding to life-threatening and serious medical conditions remained very limited.
Resettlement, as part of the comprehensive regional solutions strategy for Congolese refugees in the Great Lakes, remained the most viable durable solution in 2019 and was prioritized in response to protection needs of the most vulnerable, including refugees with serious medical, physical or legal protection needs (including LGBTI profiles) as well as women and girls facing heightened protection risks. A total of 2,928 refugees were resettled including to the United States of America (2,570); Australia (300); the United Kingdom (33); Canada (25); Finland (9) and Sweden (1). These departures represented 118% of departures for 2018 (2,434 people) and 146% of projected departures for 2019 (2,000). In addition, with 28,418 individuals identified as being in need of resettlement, the projected global resettlement needs initially targeted only 3,500 people, with a revised target of 4,000 people by March 2019. By the end of 2019, a total of 3,742 refugees (876 cases) had been submitted for resettlement, representing 94% of the revised target and surpassing submission targets of 2018 by 154%. Of these submissions 2,927 people (78%) were submitted to the United States of America, while Australia received 807 submissions (21%). The remaining 1% were submitted to Finland (9 people), Sweden (1), the United Kingdom (1) and Canada (1).
No processing under complementary pathways was facilitated by the Office in 2018, however in 2019, as part of the “Three-year strategy (2019-2021) on resettlement and complementary pathways” aimed at expanding access to third-country solutions, Canada selected refugees under the allocated quotas for submissions to benefit from the blended visa office-referred program (BVOR) with joint sponsorship by the Canadian Government and private/community groups. In addition, UNHCR in collaboration with IOM supported the processing of family reunifications under private sponsorship channels, mainly to Canada.
To improve oversight and reinforce the prevention of fraud and overall integrity of the resettlement process, a nationwide verification exercise and the deployment of the Biometric Identity Management System (BIMS) began in 2019. This was reinforced by the development of anti-fraud messages and campaigns, the institution of mandatory processes for updating file records and the review of audit reports for each submitted case. The Office also undertook a review of existing resettlement standard operating procedures (SOPs) in line with the 2017 anti-fraud policy and finalized operational anti-fraud SOPs relevant to the management of fraud perpetrated by people of concern.
SGBV prevention and response
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGVB) remained a recurring problem for refugees in Burundi. 456 new cases (436 females and 20 males) were documented and assisted in the refugee camps and in Bujumbura. The majority were cases of rape (152 cases) and domestic violence (69 cases). Special attention and necessary assistance were provided according to the needs identified: 67 survivors received medical assistance before receiving psychosocial counselling and 175 were referred to the medical partner GVC.
In the course of the year 2,847 refugees (2,781 females and 66 males) received psychosocial support, 838 cases (835 females and 3 males) were referred by UNHCR to various actors for follow up interventions (including ONPRA, GVC and JRS). 20 groups discussions were held to encourage mutual support among survivors and address isolation. 4,671 women and girls benefitted from provision of secure spaces (Espoir centres, CUCOR) and 687 survivors (682 females and 5 males) received dignity kits. The involvement partners in the search for appropriate outcomes for survivors was the preferred approach. To this end, 126 case management meetings were held, including emergency meetings.
SGVB including sexual exploitation and abuse and related risks, which remained widespread in schools and communities, was addressed through awareness raising, community mobilization and active involvement of refugees (especially men) in SGBV responses. In this regard, particular attention was given to training on changing men's behavior in the fight against violence against women and girls. Teachers and groups of young adolescents within schools were trained to sensitize their peers to SGBV. A total of 1,341 large-scale awareness and management sessions were conducted in the five camps and in urban areas.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for prevention and response to SGBV were in place and established referral mechanisms were functional. All SGBV partners complied with the SOPs, as well as with the protocol for sharing information on SGBV. SGBV survivors had access to essential services (psychosocial, medical, legal and security assistance) all aimed at mitigating the consequences of SGBV and strengthening community reintegration. 28 selected facilitators assisted IRC community mobilizers and supported and referred survivors to case management services.
Shelter and infrastructure
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Results and Impact
In 2019, newly arrived refugees were accommodated in Nyankanda camp, which was officially opened in April 2019 but received the first refugee convoy on 20 December 2018. Upon arrival, refugees received shelter kits and plots of land where they built their houses. 28 blocks were built, for a total of 1,344 houses, including nine using refugee housing unit (RHU). 431 RHUs out of 480 were used for shelters in Nyankanda and the rest to build isolation wards for suspected Ebola cases in all five camps and in the Cishemere transit centre. Those shelters helped households to live in adequate dwellings.
In addition, rehabilitation was done in other camps such as Kavumu, Bwagiriza, Kinama and Musasa including some community infrastructure such as schools (e.g., 40 classrooms in Kinama camp) and community kitchens. Regarding the rehabilitation of shelters, refugees were supported with awareness raising and construction kits and materials for rehabilitation were distributed. In order to improve the accessibility of the camps, especially Kavumu and Bwagiriza, some critical parts of the roads leading to camps (Ruyigi-Bwagiriza-Nyankanda and Kavumu) were repaired. Road maintenance facilitated the transport of goods for assistance each month, as well as the transport of newly arrived refugees and staff (partners and UNHCR) who performed their daily activities in the camps.
In total in 2019, a 6,595 refugees received construction kits and shelter materials, 1,530 people of concern received RHUs and 44 buildings and structures were rehabilitated and maintained across all camps and transit centres Finally, from February to May, an in-depth assessment was conducted, supporting the design of a 5-year strategy setting clear goals and timelines for future constructions within the camps and their surrounding areas.
Results and Impact
The repatriation operation was launched in 2017 with the aim of facilitating the return of all Burundian refugees in the sub-region who expressed interest in voluntary repatriation. The planning figure for 2019 was 116,000.
During 2019, UNHCR and its partners facilitated the return with dignity and in security of 21,174 Burundian refugees (11,613 women and 9,561 men) from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Senegal, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia representing all those who had demonstrated and confirmed their intention to return to their country of origin. Even if the 2019 results represented only 18% of the planning figures, the operation’s objective was achieved, since all those registered for return benefited from UNHCR facilitation.
All returnees (100%) received adequate support in different transit centres (Kajaga, Gitara, Kinazi, Nyabitare and Songore); the Kinazi transit centre (Muyinga) was established at the beginning of the year and was operational from April.
UNHCR together with its partners provided return assistance to every Burundian refugee who voluntarily returned. The assistance included accommodation in the transit centres; and each returnee underwent verification and biometric registration and received return documentation. In addition, hot meals and potable water were provided to all returnees. Before leaving for their areas of origin, UNHCR and its partners ensured that every returnee underwent health screening and was provided with food, non-food items and cash to meet their basic needs for a period of three months. Specific assistance was provided to people with special needs. All assisted returnees were provided with safe secondary transportation to their municipality of origin.
People with specific needs received relevant services based on a multi-sector approach during the process of welcoming at the transit centres. In area-based management of cases of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), 729 women and five men were assisted. In terms of child protection, 417 children (193 boys and 224 girls) benefited from individualized interventions (47% boys and 53% girls). As part of medical assistance, 9,167 people benefited from medical screening and 4,167 consultations were held in 2019; 3,842 children under the age of 5 underwent nutritional screening; 126 pregnant women received medical and nutritional screening; and 1,032 breastfeeding women received nutritional screening.
During the year, UNHCR aimed to provide direct cash assistance, so the operation established a partnership with a financial service provider (Lumitel); and structured a system to replace cash-in-hand distributions with mobile money, a more secure modality to promote both privacy and economic inclusion.
The fleet dedicated to transporting goods and people was strengthened with eight additional trucks and four vehicles. The operation received 61 ground convoys and several flights transporting returnees.
As of 31 December 2019, UNHCR had facilitated the voluntary return of a total of 79,720 Burundian returnees since the start of repatriation in 2017.