Burundi refugees fleeing to Tanzania

In April 2015, Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term in office. Protests erupted in the capital Bujumbura, ignited by those who questioned the legality of the move.

Violence has forced some 265,000 Burundians to flee the country to neighbouring states, with more than half crossing the border to Tanzania.

Refugees settle in three overstretched camps in western Tanzania where they face poor, crowded conditions. The atmosphere remains calm in these settlements, but the continued violence and volatility in Burundi has ensured a continued flow of migrants into Tanzania.

What is HelpAge doing?

Around 5% of refugees are aged 50 and over, and these older men and women are an especially vulnerable group, facing specific needs in nutrition, health and access to relief. HelpAge is supporting these people to ensure they get the assistance they need:

  • Through our Age and Disability Capacity Building (ADCAP) programme we have trained staff of various agencies responding to the emergency to ensure they meet the minimum standards for inclusion of older men and women and people with disabilities.
  • Our social workers visit the homes of people with special needs to address issues such as lost ration cards and domestic violence, and helping these families move closer to services so they have better access.
  • We have helped nearly 2,400 people have priority access to food rations, including supporting 130 people to get to the distribution points and have their supplies transported home.
  • We have provided essential relief items including mattresses, soap, mosquito nets and sweaters to more than 1,000 older men and women and people with special needs.
  • To support refugees with disabilities, injuries or other physical challenges, we have installed a gymnasium where they can exercise and helped them access physiotherapy.
  • One-off cash transfers have helped 2,500 older people buy food and medicine.
  • We have secured 10 sewing machines in the Nduta camp and are providing training to help boost the livelihoods of older people and simultaneously offering psychosocial support.

Hear from the men and women we are helping

Miguro is a 66-year-old refugee from Burundi

Miguro is a 66-year-old refugee from Burundi

Miguro Maria is 66. She fled Burundi in 2015 on her own, and now cares for two children who were separated from their parents as they escaped.

When Miguro arrived, she spent the nights sleeping on the cold, hard, dusty floors of the camp. She would wake up each morning to the aching pains of her body, exacerbated by a chronic problem she suffers in one leg.

She has eye problems, and at night her poor vision causes great difficulty when navigating her surroundings. 

We provided Miguro with an age-friendly kit, which included a mattress, woolen blanket, sweater mosquito net, solar lamp, washing basin, cooking pots and soap. She and the two children she cares for no longer have to sleep on the unforgiving floor and they are able to stay warm through the cold nights, while the solar lamp has been a huge help during the hours of darkness.

Miguro is very appreciative of her age-friendly kit and how it has made her life easier in the camp - she can now sleep through the night without pain.

Receiving support from HelpAge has made Kajana happier

Receiving support from HelpAge has made Kajana happier


Seventy-four-year-old Kajana fled Burundi alone after the election instability last year. He saw other older people in the community being targeted and knew he had to escape.

Kajana lost touch with his children during previous conflicts. "They ran away and never came back. I saw that I was all alone," he said.

Sleeping on the rough floor caused great pain and discomfort to him too, and he was very grateful to receive the age-friendly kit to try to ease his suffering.

"Now I wake up happy. I now have something on which to sleep, to cover myself, to wash and cook with," said Kajana.

You can help us support the lives of older refugees from Burundi in Tanzania’s camps by giving today.


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