People living in high risk zones will be evacuated by December this year, according to officials from the Ministry of Refugee affairs and Disaster Management.
The development was announced by the Ministry Permanent Secretary Antoine Ruvebana, on Wednesday.
Ruvebana was on a tour of Nyabihu District, one of the seven districts in the country that are highly prone to disasters.
He was accompanied by local leaders and officials from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which has been supporting the affected districts.
Ruvebana hailed Disaster Management Committees in the affected districts, most of them from the north-west of the country for managing the disasters over the years.
The relocation of people living in high risk zones was postponed twice last year to allow government secure resettlement areas for all the affected households before eviction.
Ruvebana said the ministry postponed the initial deadlines because of budgetary constraints and lack of land for resettlement.
But he said on Wednesday he was optimistic vulnerable citizens will have been relocated by December this year.
“We are building houses to help these people evacuate, each district has identified people to be evacuated and relocation is ongoing,” Ruvebana said.
The government has, however, encouraged people with capacity to build their own houses to evacuate so as to lessen the burden on the part of government.
Last year, the government established a Disaster Steering Technical Committee (DSTC) which was tasked with coordinating responses to disasters.
The committe was to work closely with the already existing National Disaster Steering
Committee (NDSC) comprising ministries of Disaster Management (chair), Defence (vice chair), Local Government, Internal Security, Health, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Infrastructure, as well as Rwanda Defence Forces, and the Rwanda National Police.
The NDSC is charged with mapping disaster-prone areas and mobilising for resettlement from those areas.
The PS said in Nyabihu alone, over 300 houses are set to be constructed by government in partnership with the Red Cross.
Local leaders have also been encouraged to work closely with residents to help construct houses for the vulnerable.
The government says it needs about Rwf3 billion to construct 18,000 housing units to resettle residents living in the disaster prone areas across the country.
An initiative to help move the vulnerable people was rolled out last year, with a target of completing 30,000 units by September but only 12,000 units had been completed by September last year, according to Ruvebana.
Over 80,000 households were supposed to evacuate from the risky zones but just over 40,000 of them relocated.
In the Northern Province, there are about 1,895 families that need to be evacuated. Burera District has over 550 families living in designated high risk zones while Musanze District has over 400.
There are about 190 households in Gakenke and 173 in Gicumbi that need to be evacuated while Rulindo has 582 families living in high risk zones.
Earlier, the Mayor of Rulindo District, Justus Kangwage, told The New Times that his district had many families still living in high risk zone and he doubted the district’s capacity to evacuate them.
The UNDP country director Auke Lootsma said UNDP had been working closely with the government to build national and local capacities for disaster management systems.
UNDP has disserminated over $8 million to help the government deal with disasters, according to Lootsma.
He said they are working with Midmar and other partners to ensure that they do not only respond properly to disasters but also help people find alternative homes as well as prevent future disasters in what is termed as disaster rescue reduction.