A second life for refugee camps in north-western Tanzania

17 Dec 2009

Situated in the north-west of Tanzania, the regions of Kigoma and Kagera are among the poorest and most marginalized areas in the country.

For decades, Kigoma and Kagera have hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees from the surrounding Great Lakes area, including from Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.

The presence of refugees has had both positive and negative consequences for the hosting communities.

On the positive side, the massive humanitarian operation that was set up to provide services to the refugee camps have spurred the creation of health services, schools, roads and other infrastructure which locals have also been able to benefit from.At the same time, refugees have been perceived by the locals as posing a security threat.

On the other hand, peace-building processes in neighboring countries have generated hopes of a new life for the refugees and a majority are now going home. As the camps are being closed down, Tanzanians have lost access to the services previously provided in the camps.

Tanzania is one of the eight countries piloting the UN reform process, known as “Delivering as One”. Thanks to the reform, UN agencies are working together to achieve common goals and to accelerate results with more coherent joint planning, financing, operations and monitoring.

As part of this initiative, twelve UN agencies are now taking part in a single programme that ensures that local governments  in Kigoma and Kagera can continue to provide adequate basic services for Tanzanians.

Halfway through its three-year lifespan, the 10-million USD programme is bearing its fruits. In Kasulu (Kigoma), the former refugee camp in Muyovosi has had a facelift with efforts to rehabilitate the infrastructure previously used by the refugees. This infrastructure is being converted into a secondary school and clinic that are almost complete. In addition, the previous water system has been upgraded and the whole camp now has running water.

Still in Muyovosi, the former primary school is being upgraded to a secondary school for boys and girls. Windows, doors and partition walls are being installed in the former camp church, which is being converted into a hostel for boys. Girls will be housed in another building up the road.  When the school opens in 2010, there will be up to 240 students.

Nearby, the camp’s former health center is also getting renovated and the villagers are eagerly waiting for it to reopen. Some of the Nyakitonto villagers used to visit the refugee camp clinic when it was still in operation.

The clinic used to provide health services for 30, 000 refugees and the five villages around the camp and the efforts aim to continue to provide those services for the villages and students

“I took my child to Muyovosi for blood. Here in Nyakitonto we don’t have medical practitioners, there is no doctor or blood supply. I will definitely use the facilities at Muyovosi again,” said Ms. Adela Madjoro who lives in the village.

District officers have been supervising all of these rehabilitation efforts. For Francis Namaumbo, the Executive Director of the Kasulu District, the UN and district authorities have been working together efficiently.

Once rehabilitation of the buildings is completed, the district council plans to invite local population, living scattered over the district and/or in underserved areas, to settle in the vast fertile land where the former camp is located to have better access to services.

“We have agreed to support the district to develop a land use plan at Muyovozi, engaging in participatory planning the new settlers and the five village councils surrounding the former camp, to ensure that the new facilities and former camp land will be used in a harmonized manner by all villagers. ”, says Ms. Simonetta Rossi, UNDP Programme Manager.

The joint effort of the UN agencies and the Government is generating a second life for the former refugee camp and, progressively, winning the minds of women and men, moving them away from the logic of being compensated for having hosted refugees and engaging them in the creation of their own development perspectives in the district.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact Anu Hautalampi, Communications Officer, UNDP Tanzania. anu.hautalampi@undp.org