UniRef’s first mission was initiated at the end of 2014, in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Musasa camp in Burundi, where around 7,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been settled since 2007.

The Burundian government policy towards refugee population integration enabled us to offer, in partnership with the UNHCR, three fast-track undergraduate programs in Agribusiness, Information Technology (IT) and Healthcare. These academic programs concerned 120 young students; among them, 60% were Congolese refugees (DRC) and 40% were Burundian citizens.

The programs were established alongside the University of Ngozie – and with the Hospital of Myunga for the Healthcare curriculum – and were validated by the National Commission for Higher Education (CNES).

The construction of the classrooms, in addition with the school furniture, were financed and managed by the UNHCR. The professors were under the supervision of the Rector Alexis Ndabarushimana.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UniRef, Yvelyne Wood, led the mission alongside the Representative of UniRef in Burundi, Malsore Biba, whose office was settled in Myunga.

The development of the mission, especially the opening of the classes, was suspended due to events beyond UniRef’s control. The presidential election in 2015 caused extreme political and social instability bringing the country on the brink of civil war. In this context and following the request of the United Nations – addressed to foreign NGOs working in Burundi – UniRef had to temporarily leave the country in 2015.

UniRef’s team returned to the Musasa camp in 2016 to pursue its mission. However, in the same year the Burundian government enacted new laws hostile to foreign humanitarian activities. These new legislative measures caused the suspension of the mission and the departure of UniRef in early 2017.