The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has announced today that it is taking urgent measures to contain the spread of a severe watery diarrhoea outbreak among newly arrived Burundian refugees in Tanzania, as seven people have been reported dead since Wednesday.
“UNHCR’s priority is to work with the Ministry of Health and international partners to prepare for the worst and quickly establish a cholera treatment centre in Kagunga,” Joyce Mends-Cole, UNHCR Representative in Tanzania said in a press release.
“There is only a small dispensary in that village, lacking required diagnostics and treatment modalities – including medication,” he added. The UN refugee agency is also flying in urgently needed medication, to supplement what can be found locally. Two specimens have preliminary been diagnosed as cholera, but we are awaiting official confirmation from a reference laboratory. Another 77 Burundians in Nyarugusu – in the western province of Kigoma – are being treated for severe watery diarrhoea. Some 300 people are being treated for watery diarrhoea at Kagunga – near the Tanzanian border – and at the Stadium in Kigoma.
Kagunga is a small village surrounded by a steep mountain range on the Tanzanian side and is best accessible by boat. Since Burundian refugees started to arrive in Kagunga early May, UNHCR has moved them by boat to Kigoma and from there to the refugee camp in Nyarugusu. Over 20,000 refugees have either been moved to, or arrived at the refugee camp. Meanwhile, UNHCR is taking urgent preventative measures to improve sanitation, hygiene and early detection, as well as a hygiene promotion information campaign.
In Tanzania, the number of refugees arriving in Kagunga has risen sharply over the last few days and the living conditions have become extremely dire. Local immigration authorities reported that over 50,000 Burundians were living rough in Kagunga on the shore of Lake Tanganyika.