In Burundi, most of the UNHCR Staff in field offices in Makamba and Muyinga and in Sub Office in Ruyigi have their families in Bujumbura. Every weekend they travel all the way from their area of assignment to Bujumbura. To join their families, they sometimes travel more than 200 kilometers on hilly, slippery roads with dangerous turns.

Last year, UNHCR staff from the Ruyigi Sub Office driving home to Bujumbura for the weekend, were involved in a road accident, and a staff member from a NGO partner, his wife and child got killed in a road accident on his way back to Ruyigi from Bujumbura.

In an effort for staff to be safer on the roads and by preventing road accidents, UNHCR now offers to transport staff to their families twice a month. Staff donate a small contribution in order to buy the petrol for the bus, which is appreciated.

“Now we travel safely without stress. There is a speed limit and we are seated comfortably in the bus”, says Floriane Niyonkuru from Makamba Field Office. She further explains that there are very few road checks and less harassment by the security officers on a UNHCR vehicle.

At 1 p.m., the bus is already parked in front of the UNHCR Office. Staff joyfully leave the office with bags on their backs and board the bus, happy to join the family within three hours, with a stopover half way so that they can get out to stretch their legs.

“We know at what time we depart and we keep on working until we board on the bus taking us to Bujumbura, which is also good, because we do not rush to catch the last bus to Bujumbura”, said, Fidele Nsabimana from UNHCR Muyinga Field Office.

On the bus, time flies fast. Some are seated comfortably and confident in the experienced driver that they shortly fall asleep, while others are joking. “We travel together like brothers and sisters in a good ambiance. There is no more anxiety or stress to miss the bus”, sais Alice C. Nimbona from Ruyigi Sub Office.

The Burundi bus experience is a good one – which should be followed by other countries where UNHCR has staff. “No high speed, no risk of stealing our stuff, no late arrival home or back to our areas of assignment”, confirmed Saoudatou, the Head of Ruyigi Sub Office who travels regularly with its staff to and from Bujumbura.

Staff however have requested that the Office should consider to extend the offer of facilitation of transport on all weekends.

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Photo: ©Bernard Ntwari