Nearly 5.5% of 889 Burundians people expelled from Tanzania tested positive for Covid-19
Since 12 January 2021, 889 undocumented Burundians (according to the Tanzanian administration) have been deported to Burundi via the border from Gisuru to Cijongo, in Gisuru commune, Ruyigi province. Among them, the provincial authorities and the Burundian Red Cross (CRB) registered 49 people who tested positive to Covid-19 (5.5%). As of 25 February, 68 people were in quarantine in Cijongo, 30 in Kabanga and 46 in Muhwazi. The majority of the deported are young men between 18 and 29 years of age. Before returning to their home communities, they have to stay in quarantine for at least seven days. Given this critical situation, a rapid multisectoral assessment mission to Cijongo site, led by the National Platform for Risk Prevention and Disaster Management, the Ministry of Health and OCHA, was organized on 10 February to assess the implementation of response to address the needs of those expelled from Cijongo. The Governor of Ruyigi, the Burundi Red Cross (CRB), UNICEF, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), WFP, IOM, and the Terre des Hommes Foundation. According to the CRB, 60 per cent of the people expelled are from Ruyigi province and 40 per cent from the provinces of Karusi, Cankuzo, Gitega, Muyinga, Makamba, Ngozi, Kayanza, and Bururi. At the time of the mission, Cijongo site was receiving about 30 arrivals per day. Local solidarity efforts by the administration and the CRB in the first few days were relatively limited due to the large number of people expelled and the positive Covid-19 registered. In support of the administration's actions, MSF-B set up a 5,000 liter tank to supply water at Cijongo site. With funding from UNHCR, the Council for Education and Development (COPED) has installed two latrine blocks, including four latrines for women and four for men, and undertakes disinfection when necessary. Evicted people have also been assisted with shelter (tents) and non-food items by MSF-B, IOM and the CRB in Cijongo, Kinyinya, Kabanga and Mugege (Butaganzwa). The CRB will extend food provision to the site, with Gisuru communal administration providing fuel for cooking. WFP has already conducted a rapid needs assessment in Cijongo and suggested serving hot meals to limit contact between people. Take-home food rations will also be provided to the expelled. Following new arrivals, the mission suggested that WFP establish an estimated caseload of distribution per week. As of 9 February, 25 Covid-19 positive cases were being treated in hospitals in Ruyigi. However, challenges remain, including lack of structures (isolation area at Rema Hospital), equipment (ambulance, PPE), supplies (fuel) as well as hazard pay for the frontline responders. Advocacy efforts with the Ministry of Public Health and the Fight against AIDS (MSPLS) include calls for the establishment of Cijongo site as an entry point, for an ambulance to be made available for the exclusive transport of Covid-19 positive cases from the site to Ruyigi hospital, and for an isolation area to be set up inside Rema hospital. Advocacy efforts also requested the Tanzanian authorities to halt expulsions in the context of Covid-19 and to ensure dignified and secure reception and return.