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Protecting Burundian refugee children in Tanzania

Plan International Tanzania is providing emotional support for Burundian refugee children and helping them access their right to protection.

Child protection, refugee camp,
Two boys smiling at Nygarusu refugee camp.

Children Flee Violence

Since April 2015, thousands of Burundians have fled political violence in their home country to neighbouring countries.

Nearly 134,500 Burundians are currently taking refuge in camps Northwest Tanzania, of which 78% are women and children. A vast number of children living in the camps have witnessed extreme violence, while many have been separated from their parents.

Plan International is committed to helping refugee children access their right to protection, and works in 3 refugee camps in Northwest Tanzania: Nygarugusu, Nduta and Mtendeli.

Play provides immediate relief through laughter and joy, while promoting a child´s self-confidence, emotional expression and social development

Plan International has been working in Nygarugusu camp since the beginning of the crisis in June 2015. However, as this camp reached breaking point in October 2015, thousands of refugees were relocated to new camps, Nduta and Mtendeli, where we were selected by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to lead on child protection.

Child Friendly Spaces

A joint assessment with UNHCR has shown major child protection issues in the refugee camps.

Our experience of working in refugee camps has shown the importance of child protection and emotional support in the long term development of children affected by violence and conflict.

Plan International is focusing on child-friendly spaces (CFSs), which allow children to access emotional and psychological support and education in the camps.  

Child protection, refugee camps
Burundian girl carrying her brother on her back at Nyagurusu refugee camp.

Activities such as drawing, life skills, learning about their rights, hygiene education and games take place in CFSs. We also provide one to one counselling to emotionally distressed children.

“We’re assisting highly vulnerable children including those unaccompanied and separated, by ensuring they are protected, have increased access to safe places and child protection materials as well as providing them with emotional support” said Jorgen Haldorsen, Country Director of Plan International Tanzania.

In Nygarugusa camp, where there are nearly 79,000 refugees residing, 5,719 children attended CFSs in February 2016. In the smaller camps, Nduta and Mtendeli, nearly 3,000 children are currently are accessing CFSs across both camps.

Unaccompanied and separated children are recorded, and emergency foster families are being identified to host and care for them. In the longer term, Plan International Tanzania will aim to trace children’s parents and reunite families where possible.

Healing through laughter

In December 2015, Plan International partnered with Clowns Sans Frontieres (Clowns Without Borders France) to help heal traumatic experiences that so many children have gone through with laughter, play and performance.

A group of 8 performers dressed as clowns performed 10 shows in Nygarusu and Nduta camps, reaching 2,000 people each show.

Dr Unni Krishnan, Head of Disaster Preparedness and Response for Plan International, said that “Performances by these clowns along with play provides immediate relief through laughter and joy, while promoting a child´s self-confidence, emotional expression and social development.”