This Week in Restoring Family Links News 06/29/15 - 07/03/15

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

Burundi: Nearly two months has passed since thousands of Burundians began to flee from their homes to escape pre-election violence. The uprising was in response to President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third consecutive five-year term, which violates Burundi’s peace accord set in 2000 – stating a president may only serve two terms. Elections concluded on Monday–despite calls by the UN to postpone it to mid-July–and as grenades flew over polling stations and guns rattled through the streets, citizens fled. As of the elections, 10,000 additional refugees left Burundi, and the UNHCR reported that over 140,000 Burundians were declared displaced in four main neighboring countries: almost half are seeking refuge in Tanzania, 40% in Rwanda, and the remaining in DRC and Uganda. While these are staggering numbers, the realities hit home: 80% of these individuals were refugees before, and over 60% are children. Children often come unaccompanied, and are vulnerable to disease, malnutrition, and trauma.

Burundian family in Tanzania camp (British Red Cross)

Burundian family in Tanzania camp (British Red Cross)

With the highest number of refugees, most of the weight has fallen on Tanzania: Nygaragusu camp in Tanzania is home to 120,000 refugees, and before Burundians arrived, Nygaragusu was the home to 65,000 Congolese refugees. Combined, the population equals the size of Cambridge, England. The Red Cross is hard at work at Nygaragusu treating cases of cholera, improving access to clean drinkable water, providing medical care and psychological support, and reuniting families. However, resources are dwindling. The camp urges for more aid in order to accommodate newly arriving refugees, and aspire to build schools, hospitals, and new residences. The British Red Cross has pledged £50,000 from its Disaster Fund to help with the relief effort in Tanzania, and urges for more donations. 

Ukraine: Since 2013, war has raged across Ukraine due to political tensions between Ukraine and the EU council. Over the past two years, protests, violence, and political instability have uprooted millions from their homes into other parts of Ukraine, and in some cases, to other countries. As of last month, the UN reported that 1.3 million Ukrainians are internally displaced, (with many of them children), 6,500 civilians have been killed, and over 16,000 wounded. UN estimates demonstrate that more than 5 million people in Ukraine are in need of humanitarian support – a figure that sprung the EU into action.

Ukrainian refugees at a playground in Russia (AFP)

Ukrainian refugees at a playground in Russia (AFP)

This week, the EU pledged to increase humanitarian aid to Ukraine to €15 million, with a focus on the Eastern region as well as to aid children. EU leaders hold, “too many children are being left behind.” These sobering realities along with migrant influxes across the Mediterranean, especially in Italy, France, Hungary, and now Greece, will require the EU to tackle refugee and migrant issues head on. 

South Sudan: Looking back over the last 18 months, close to 2 million people have been forced from their homes since South Sudan descended into civil war due to conflict between nation’s leaders that rehashed old ethnic tensions. Yesterday, the UN mission in South Sudan declared that anti-government rebels opened fire on a peacekeeping base sheltering thousands of civilians, killing at least one person and wounding six others. In response, The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on six military commanders from South Sudan for perpetuating the conflict, and hope to continue to protect citizens. As of now, there is no word to who committed the crimes.