Burundian returnees to receive bigger aid package from UN agency

Burundian returnees to receive bigger aid package from UN agency

United Nations aid agencies are offering cash grants and bigger food packages to help ease the reintegration of the anticipated surge of Burundians returning home from refugee camps in the northwest of neighbouring Tanzania.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expects to be able to help about 60,000 of the estimated 150,000 Burundians who are likely to return before the end of this year now that the security situation in their homeland has improved.

Nearly 5,000 people have returned so far this year, taking the total number of returnees to Burundi since 2002 to some 300,000 as a series of power-sharing agreements and ceasefires between the Government and various rebel groups help to bring peace to the impoverished African country.

Returns will be voluntary, UNHCR stressed in a media statement yesterday, saying that at a meeting last month with agency staff and Burundian officials, the Tanzanian Government discounted media reports that it plans to repatriate all 350,000 Burundians still living in its territory.

As of this week, each returnee to Burundi will receive a cash grant of 50,000 Burundian francs, or $50, to help them get started once they are back in their homeland. The money, which will be paid via a network of local cooperatives, is being provided on top of UN assistance with repatriation transport and basic household and farming items.

Since April, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also started giving returnees four months of food rations instead of three months, while the Burundian Commission on Land is setting up a presence in all provinces to solve any land or property disputes.

As a further incentive, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) offering secondary school education at the Tanzanian refugee camps are being encouraged to shift their programmes to the areas in Burundi where people are returning. Secondary school fees have also been waived in these areas.