burundi refugees
Burundian refugees travel across Lake Tanganyika to Kigoma township, Tanzania Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

The Tanzanian government has warned cholera is spreading among Burundian refugees in a camp as thousands are fleeing the country due to political unrest.

It is estimated that more than 105,000 people found shelter into neighbouring countries such as Tanzania and Rwanda after Burundi descended into violence, following President Pierre Nkurunziza's announcement that he will seek a third term in the June election.

Protesters accused him of violating the constitution and the Arusha Peace Agreement, which says the president can only stay in power for two terms. Nkurunziza's supporters argue the president's first term should not be counted as he was chosen by the parliament and not by the people in an election as is specified in the agreement.

What is cholera?

Cholera is a bacterial infection that is contracted when people drink contaminated water or eat food that has been in contact with contaminated water.

The main symptoms of the disease are diarrhoea, vomiting and stomach cramps. People affected by cholera can suffer dehydration and in the most serious cases die.

"The Ministry of Health is sending a team of medical experts to the Burundi refugee camp in Tanzania to deal with the cholera outbreak," Tanzania's health ministry spokesman Nsachris Mwamwaja told Reuters.

Oxfam also warned the refugees are at risk of contracting diseases and tens of thousands are in urgent need of clean water, adequate sanitation, health care, food and shelter.

"Without these basic needs being met, the risk of disease spreading among new arrivals is dangerously high," the aid agency said. "Oxfam teams are arriving to provide material and technical support to deliver life-saving clean water, construct latrines, as well as to educate the refugee population about the crucial importance of good hygiene in preventing disease."

Why are people fleeing?

Uganda-based independent journalist Fulvio Beltrami told IBTimes UK that in order to implement a genocide fear, Nkurunziza allegedly used the Imbonerakure – the youth wing of his party's National Council for the Defense of Democracy – which has been allegedly brainwashed with genocide propaganda during training in eastern Congo by the Hutu rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Foreigners started to leave the country too and some companies suspended flights to the capital Bujumbura. Those are warning signs that something not so good is about to happen.
Lionelle Kingsley Bio

The FDLR includes members of the Interahamwe, or "those who stand together", a Hutu paramilitary organisation responsible for the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The organisation left Rwanda and sheltered in DR Congo in the aftermath of the ethnic cleansing.

Rwanda has also expressed concern at reports claiming violence in Burundi was linked to the FDLR. That has been denied by the government, which has also dismissed coup claims.

Lionelle Kingsley Bio, vice-president of the UK Burundian Diaspora (UKBD), told IBTimes UK more people are worried because the situation is getting worse after the army declared a coup, which was later aborted.

"People are fearing for their life and many are confused about the situation and don't know who to trust. There has been a lot of intimidation," she said.

Bio added that UKBD is planning to hold marches in London to "continue to put pressure on the government, bring the issue on the international map and keep screaming until something gets done because we feel that things are unfortunately getting worse and there is a very great risk of a genocide".

She said: "Foreigners started to leave the country too and some companies suspended flights to the capital Bujumbura. Those are warning signs that something not so good is about to happen."

People are fleeing because of 'rumours'

In a previous interview with IBTimes UK, Willy Nyamitwe, spokesperson for the Burundian government, said according to the government's figures, 35,000 Burundians have left the country.

He said: "Among all the persons who fled none can say that they were injured, none of them can say that their houses had been burned or destroyed, which means that people are fleeing the country because of rumours spread by some media station here that warned a total war was coming."