Plan International’s Response to Refugee Emergency in Rwanda

Plan International is an independent global child rights organization committed to supporting vulnerable and marginalized children and their communities to be free from poverty. We strive for a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.

About Plan International

Plan International is an independent global child rights organization committed to supporting vulnerable and marginalized children and their communities to be free from poverty. We strive for a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.  For close to 80 years, we have supported girls and boys and their communities around the world to gain the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to claim their rights, free themselves from poverty and live positive fulfilling lives. We engage people and partners to:

  • Empower children, young people and communities to make vital changes that tackle the root causes of discrimination against girls, exclusion and vulnerability
  • Drive change in practice and policy at local, national and global levels through our reach, experience and knowledge of the realities children face
  • Work with children and communities to prepare for and respond to crises and to overcome adversity
  • Support the safe and successful progression of children into adulthood.

About Plan International Rwanda:

Plan International has been operating in Rwanda since January 2007 and is present in three Program Units covering 5 districts: Bugesera, Gatsibo, Rwamagana and Kayonza located in Eastern Province and Nyaruguru in Southern Province. Plan International Rwanda also has emergency response programs in 6 refugee camps and 2 reception centres, where fresh coming refugees are taken before they are transferred to Mahama Refugee Camp. Apart from the three Program Units and the Country Office in Kigali, Plan International also has four Liaison Offices (which serve as field coordination offices for the staff in the camp) in Gihembe, Huye, Karongi and Kirehe districts.

Plan International Rwanda has four country programmes anchored on Child Rights namely: Right to Quality and Inclusive Education, Right to Early Childhood Care and Development through united communities, Right to Youth Economic Security through active citizenship, and Right to Protection.

Work in Refugee Emergencies in Rwanda

In mid-2014, Plan International Rwanda started providing support to over 75000 Burundian refugees and over 74,000 Congolese refugees. In close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), Plan International Rwanda has been providing support mainly through family reunification for separated and unaccompanied children, child protection and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) prevention and response in 6 refugee camps and 2 reception centers in Rwanda.

Congolese Refugees: Since May 2014, Plan International Rwanda has been working in the Congolese refugee camps and in Kigali for urban refugees. Plan International has responded to child protection (CP) and sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) through case management, inclusive of psychosocial support and referrals to suitable service providers as well as in birth registration.

Plan International Rwanda continues to work closely with community mobilizers, utilising community-based protection mechanisms that engage the community in behavioral change to develop a more protective camp environment. Furthermore, Plan International Rwanda has been improving the maternal, infant and young child feeding practices within five refugee camps through healthy nutrition-related practices and increasing access to available sources of income and food diversification among refugees.

Burundi Refugees: In April 2015, Rwanda began receiving an influx of refugees fleeing civil unrest and violence in Burundi as a result of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term. This has led to an outflow of over 263,882 refugees desperately seeking safety in neighboring countries with 77,950 Burundian refugees currently sheltering in Rwanda as of May 2016.

In response to this influx, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in partnership with the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) opened three reception centers in Gashora-Bugesera, Nyanza and Nyagatare-Rusizi and one camp in the Mahama Sector of Kirehe District in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. Mahama Refugee Camp is now home to over 48,894 refugees – the majority of these are women and children. Around 24 refugees are still registered every day in Rwanda. Almost 50% of the refugees registered in Rwanda are children.

Since the crisis began, Plan International Rwanda has been providing life-saving Child Protection (CP) and Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) prevention and response interventions.

Fostering for Unaccompanied and Separated Children’s well-being

Almost half of the refugees who have arrived in Rwanda are children, many of them making the journey unaccompanied and separated from their families. Often they will be traumatised, and many have witnessed or have been victims of violent crimes.

Plan International has registered over 1,533 unaccompanied and separated children in Mahama Refugee Camp.

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Young girls performing a Burundian traditional dance, while celebrating the International Day of Girl Child in September 2015 in Mahama Refugee Camp

Marie Gladys Guerrier Archange, the Country Director for Plan International Rwanda says, “Unaccompanied and separated children are still arriving in Rwanda. Exposure to violence and emotional and psychological trauma increases their vulnerability”.

To mitigate these vulnerabilities, Plan International Rwanda is providing children access to child-friendly spaces, psychosocial support, and recreational activities.

Emergency Response Learning and Sharing Workshop

In March 2016, Plan International Rwanda brought together representatives from Plan International Rwanda, Country and Regional Office of Eastern and Southern Africa, National Offices, International Headquarters, implementing partners and donors for a three day Emergency Learning and Sharing Workshop.

 

The three day workshop reflected on the effectiveness of Plan International Rwanda’s interventions during the Burundi and Congolese emergency response - what worked and what did not work well in the response and how to improve both the ongoing response and future emergencies to come.

“We are eager to build the capacity of the country staff and the communities Plan International works in, to better prepare for future disasters, and improve our response mechanisms. The learning workshop will reflect on our emergency response so far and seek feedback from partners and donors in order to improve current response and develop ways forward towards a more prepared disaster response mechanism.” Says Marie Gladys Guerrier Archange, the Country Director of Plan International Rwanda.

The Government of Rwanda, through its Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, thanked Plan International Rwanda for the work it does in caring for children refugees.

“It is now time to congratulate Plan International Rwanda on their incredible work for children and the prevention of SGBV.” Said Honorable Seraphine Mukantabana. She further urged Plan International and other partner organisations to continue working in partnership with the government and the UN agencies, highlighting the expected influx of additional Congolese and Burundi refugees and emphasizing the importance of preparedness planning.

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