(By Estera Popowska)
More than 50,0000 people have fled Burundi in fear to neighboring countries during the last several weeks, UN Refugee Council (UNHCR) has said warning that the numbers may increase.
Fighting between Burundian police and protesters reportedly erupted in mid-April after Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, who has been in power since 2005, announced he was planning to seek a third term. Opponents say this violates the terms of the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement that limits the president to two terms.
Opposition parties are calling for the June 26 presidential elections in Burundi to be postponed. VOA says although the African Union supports this demand, President Nkurunziza shows no signs of backing down.
According to UNHCR spokesman Edwards, majority of the refugees are women and children, including a large number of unaccompanied children. He tells VOA many of these people tell aid workers that they have experienced difficulties while trying to leave Burundi.
"What I have been saying in Burundi is that people have difficulties because of the security situation," he said. "What we are hearing is roadblocks, multiple roadblocks, women, in particular having problems getting passed these -threats of rape and other problems. Borders at the moment are open to other countries. But, it is vital they remain so. People fleeing violence and fear of violence clearly need access to safe havens.”
Meanwhile, the World Food Program warns the political crisis in Burundi could lead to a humanitarian crisis. Right now, the WFP says it is providing food and nutrition to more than 25,000 Burundian refugees in Rwanda. The WFP says it and its partners are preparing to assist up to 100,000 refugees in Rwanda if necessary. (VOA)