The World Food Programme (WFP) and United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) appealed today to donors to contribute funds so that a 25 percent reduction from January onwards in food or cash assistance for more than 100,000 refugees in Rwanda can be reversed as soon as possible.
Some 130,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees in camps in Rwanda rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their food needs. They receive from WFP either monthly food distributions or cash transfers so that they can buy food in local markets.
“We thank donors for their continued generosity and support, while urging them to further fund humanitarian assistance so that we can give refugees the assistance they depend on,” said WFP Rwanda Country Director Jean-Pierre de Margerie.
Full rations for refugees provide 2,100 calories per person per day, the minimum for a healthy life. Until November 2017, WFP provided 16.95 kilograms of food to each refugee each month, mainly maize, beans, vegetable oil and salt. Other refugees received 7,600 Rwandan Francs (US$9) to buy food in local markets. However, funding shortages forced WFP to trim assistance to 90 percent in November and December. The funding situation is now so bad that from January WFP reduced the ration sizes even further – to 75 percent.
However, refugees identified as particularly vulnerable, such as children under five years of age, school children, pregnant and nursing mothers as well as people living with HIV and tuberculosis patients under treatment still receive a full ration of nutrition support from WFP.
The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs and UN agencies are currently scaling up implementation of a Joint Strategy on Economic Inclusion of Refugees to enable more of them to become self-reliant and contribute to the economic development of their host communities.
“Now more than ever is the time to find innovative and long-term solutions for refugees in Rwanda,” said UNHCR Representative Ahmed Baba Fall. “Donors have also expressed the need for a change in practice to ensure that limited funding is targeting the needs of refugees more appropriately.”
It is a priority to identify and pursue comprehensible and sustainable pathways for refugees in the Rwandan context. In this light, the ambition is to align the provision of assistance to refugees with the Rwandan National Social Protection system.
UNHCR, WFP and others have started moving towards targeting to ensure the needs of the most vulnerable are considered, while continuing supplementary feeding and promoting self-reliance by supporting a Government pledge to ‘graduate’ 18,000 camp-based refugees from food and/or cash for food assistance programmes by mid-2018.
The strategy will also strive to create access to formal employment opportunities for up to 60,000 refugees and have a similar number using banking services by mid-2018.
WFP relies entirely on voluntary contributions for its humanitarian and development programmes. WFP requires US$2.5 million every month to provide full food or cash assistance to refugees in Rwanda. If WFP receives no new funds, deeper reductions to cash and food may be necessary in coming months. Some US$11 million are needed to restore full support for the next six months.
As of December 2017, UNHCR had secured only 19 percent of its total funding needs, amounting to US$ 20.3 million out of US$ 104.5 million. These resources are required to ensure unhindered access to protection and to invest in comprehensive solutions for over 170,000 refugees hosted in Rwanda, as well as to support the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan returnees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo.