MSF suspends activities in Burundi regroupment camps

PRESS RELEASE - Brussels, November 18, 1999 Médecins Sans Frontière (MSF) has suspended its intervention at the regroupment camps in the rural province of Bujumbura, Burundi. Following the increased insecurity in and around Bujumbura, the population of the province has been regrouped into some 50 camps around the capital. Approximately 300,000 people - nearly two thirds of the population of the province - are living in these sites. MSF had agreed to bring assistance to the population in these camps, in order to save lives by primary relief intervention and to prevent the outbreak of epidemic diseases. These risks existed because of overcrowding, the lack of drinking water and the lack of shelter at the start of the rainy season. MSF intervention brought emergency relief assistance to 54,000 people in three camps: Ruyaga, Buhonga, Ruziba. After two months of relief activities, conditions in these three camps are still falling short of the vital minimum. Within this context, the MSF intervention has had little impact on the improvement of conditions of the regrouped people. For humanitarian agencies, access to the regroupment sites is limited in time and in space. This is both for reasons of security and distance. Today, only 19 on some 50 sites have been visited for assessment by humanitarian agencies. Within those, only ten effectively receive assistance. The population in the camps has only limited access to health structures and to their fields. These limiting factors do not permit effective assistance and prevention of epidemics and malnutrition. Moreover, the conditions of the regroupment itself deprive the population of its elementary rights and are thus in complete opposition with the principles of the MSF charter. Taking these considerations into account, MSF has suspended its intervention in the regroupement camps of the province of Bujumbura rural. However, MSF intends to maintain support to other ongoing programs in Burundi and remains prepared to intervene in case of epidemic emergencies. This decision was formalised by an official letter to the Burundese authorities. In various previous meetings with the Burundese authorities, MSF has expressed its concerns on the living conditions of the population in the regroupment camps.