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IRC workers poses for photo with elderly Burundian woman in front of tent in Nyaragusu refugee camp in Tanzania.
Surrounded by conflict


The International Rescue Committee provides critical support to thousands of refugees living in Tanzania as a result of ongoing conflict in neighboring countries.

Country facts
  • Total population: 51 million
  • Refugees in Tanzania: 252,000
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 151 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Tanzania: 1993

Tanzania crisis briefing

For over half a century, Tanzania has been a country of asylum, hosting one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. The International Rescue Committee   provides vital support as Tanzania’s government copes with with the latest influx of refugees from Burundi.

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What caused the crisis in Tanzania?

Tanzania plays an important role in the region as a host to refugees who have fled violence in Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The country is home to the world’s third largest refugee camp, Nyarugusu. In 2015, Tanzania saw its refugee population double as increased political instability across the border in neighboring Burundi forced a mass influx of Burundians displaced by violence.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Tanzania?

Surrounded by conflict, Tanzania has a long history of hosting refugees from neighboring countries. The recent influx of Burundian refugees following contested elections in 2015 has strained the country’s already limited resources. Refugee camps have become overstretched and underfunded.

Tanzania has experienced relative peace and stability since achieving independence in 1961. Its economy is experiencing rapid growth, but infrastructure and social services lag behind. Additionally, frequent disasters -- both natural and man-made -- have threatened economic growth and efforts at poverty reduction.

How does the IRC help in Tanzania?

Although Tanzania has one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and populations, the country is not without its challenges. Vulnerable populations, especially those affected by crisis, still lack access to basic services, unemployment is growing faster than jobs are created, and social services are subpar.

Despite these challenges, Tanzania’s borders remain open to refugees. The IRC is focusing efforts in the Kigoma, Dar es Salaam and Katavi/Rukwa regions by:

  • providing emergency relief;
  • ensuring vulnerable refugee children have access to health care, a supportive environment and safe spaces to play;
  • working with leaders of refugee communities to prevent violence against women and bolster women’s empowerment;
  • educating young refugees about reproductive health and HIV/AIDs;
  • providing young refugees – particularly girls -- with empowering social and recreational activities as well as life-skills training that can help them cope with crisis;
  • supporting asylum seekers and refugees with healthcare, shelter, food and water and protection services at a transit center in Kigoma;
  • working with local government officials and community leaders to ensure children are protected from abuse and exploitation and creating education and employment opportunities.

What still needs to be done?

While conflict threatens in the region, the IRC’s work in Tanzania remains critical. We will continue to provide support to uprooted Burundians and other refugees in Tanzania even as we prepare to respond to future emergencies. We will also focus on narrowing the gender gap in order to achieve significant measurable improvements in health, safety, education, economic well-being and empowerment.

Through 2020 we are focusing on the following areas:


People should be protected from illness and receive medical treatment when they need it. We plan to focus on providing specialized support for women victims of violence as well as broaden the health services we provide during emergencies.


People deserve to feel safe in their home and receive support when they experience harm. We will focus on child protection and gender-based violence protection services such as preventing child labor and combating sexual abuse.


School-aged children should have age-appropriate literacy, numeracy, and social and emotional skills. We will expand the number of “Healing Classrooms” providing education to refugee children. We will also provide job skills training to refugees in Nyarugusu as well as other camps and urban areas.

We will work to ensure women and girls are equally skilled in literacy and numeracy, social-emotional, and livelihoods as men and boys.


Marginalized groups should be equally able as the dominant group to choose where and how to live as well as how they are governed. The IRC will prioritize narrowing the gap in access to basic services for people with special needs, refugees who live outside camps, and former refugees who have become Tanzanian citizens.

Download the IRC Tanzania strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities through 2020.

Our impact

In 2015, the IRC and our partner organizations in Tanzania provided:


people with access to primary and reproductive health care.

We’re providing thousands of Burundian refugee women in Tanzania’s Nyarugusu camp with access to vital reproductive care.

Learn more.

children and youth with access to educational opportunities.

We work with community leaders, schoolteachers, parents and children to combat child labor by illustrating the benefits of education.

Explore our education work.

Men, women and children with gender-based violence prevention efforts in their communities.

In Tanzania, we’re committed to ensuring everyone feels safe in their homes--especially women and children.

Read about our work on safety.

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