A Refugee From Burundi Tells Of His Life In Democratic Republic Of Congo

Eliezer Nyandwi is a smallholder farmer from Burundi and the father of three children. He fled his country in June due to unrest linked to Burundi’s presidential elections. He found refuge in South Kivu province of neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Eliezer Nyandwi, 40, a smallholder farmer from Burundi, is among more than 180,000 Burundians who have sought refuge in neighbouring countries following unrest linked to presidential elections at home. In June, he and his family crossed the border into eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) when the situation escalated in their village in Cibitoke province.

"I realized my family and I were at risk when we witnessed a violent confrontation between the security forces and some villagers. We decided to flee the following night,” said Eliezer. 

Eliezer Nyandwi and his wife at the Lusenda camp © Marc Zihalirwa/WFP

Along with many others, Eliezer’s family took a sandy road snaking down to the plain towards the border with DRC. Eliezer carried their new-born baby and a suitcase of clothes. His wife walked ahead, with a pack of kitchen utensils on her head and two children alongside. 

“When we arrived in South Kivu, DRC, we were welcomed by a Congolese family,” he says. “And we got food from WFP which really helped us.”

A few days later, after being registered as refugees by UNHCR, African Initiatives for Relief and Development (AIRD) and the National Refugee Commission (CNR), Eliezer and his family were transferred from the host family to Lusenda camp where most Burundian refugees live.

The camp stretches over a hilltop along the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Eliezer’s family has a makeshift shelter in the middle of the camp. Refugee children have been registered in schools in nearby Lusenda town to help their integration into the local community.

 Children from the Lusenda camp © Olivier Leblanc/WFP

"Since our transfer to the camp, we’ve been getting monthly food rations of maize meal, beans, salt and vegetable oil, so we can eat and live," Eliezer says. 

Eliezer hopes to return to Burundi as soon as possible so he can start farming again and provide for his family. But, with the country still unstable, Eliezer has little choice but to depend on WFP’s food assistance, which is provided thanks to the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). 

"WFP’s assistance is of great importance as it helps us to survive here where we have neither fields, assets nor activities that allow us to make money or find something to eat." 

Children from the Lusenda camp © Olivier Leblanc/WFP

In the camp, Eliezer spends most of his time going from one shelter to another, chatting with his fellow countrymen about the situation in their country.  His wife goes to fetch water and firewood to cook food, while their children play with friends. They have found safety, but long to return home. 

Beneficiaries from the Lusenda camp chatting with Marc Zihalirwa, WFP National Programme Officer © Olivier Leblanc/WFP