UN steps up aid to Burundi refugees

Burundian refugees are seen on boats on their way to Kigoma, Tanzania on May 25, 2015 (AFP Photo/)

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - Alarmed by the rising tide of refugees fleeing Burundi, the United Nations on Monday moved to help Rwanda and Tanzania cope with the influx with $15 million in aid.

More than 70,000 refugees, many of them children, have fled Bujumbura since April when a dispute over the president's bid to run for re-election sparked protests.

"Children are arriving at borders sick and malnourished," new UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien said.

Cholera has already killed 30 refugees in camps in Tanzania, while Rwanda has cited high levels of malnutrition among children who make up 60 percent of those arriving from Burundi.

Burundi descended into crisis after President Pierre Nkurunziza, in power for 10 years, decided to run for a third term, triggering weeks of violent street protests.