AS PART of efforts to enhance food security among refugees, authorities are set to introduce cash aid to feed the more than 18,000 Congolese refugees currently sheltered in Kigeme camp in the southern district of Nyamagabe.
Refugees have been living off monthly food rations, comprising mainly beans, maize, cooking oil and salt provided by the World Food Programme (WFP).
But the UN food agency is set to replace its general food ration with cash, according to the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midimar), Seraphine Mukantabana.
While addressing refugees at Kigeme on Monday, Mukantabana said the cash scheme will start before the end of the year.
She was speaking during a distribution of rice to refugees in a move aimed at sharing with refugees the joy of the festive season and wishing them a happy new year 2015.
The exercise saw the distribution of over 57.2 MT (57,200 tonnes) of rice, valued at over $46,540, distributed to the over 72,000 refugees living in the five camps spread across the country.
Each person received a kilogramme of rice in addition to the usual monthly food ration, officials said.
While addressing the refugees, Minister Mukantabana said the exercise was part of efforts to help them lead meaningful lives.
In a subsequent interview, Mukantabana told The New Times that refugees have been complaining of cereals rations, with some of them finding it difficult to survive on maize and beans.
“Some of them have been selling the food rations at relatively low prices to buy other food commodities,” Mukantabana said.
“With the new scheme, they will have a chance to diversify their diet, thus improving their nutrition,” she added.
Mukantabana said an assessment to determine if the local markets around the refugee camp are enough to cope with the additional demand has proved to be positive.
“Our assessment has concluded that by providing cash to the refugees, local production will be enough to feed them and local residents,” she said.
Beginning last year, WFP began implementing a cash transfer pilot project targeting 14,500 refugees in Gihembe refugee camp, northern Rwanda. The cash programme is partly in response to studies that show refugees needed to change their diet to help improve their nutrition status, officials said.
As part of the programme, each refugee receives Rwf6,300 ($9) per month to cater for their food needs – a transfer value on the local market prices of the food ration previously distributed, according to officials.
Under the general food distribution, each beneficiary receives 16.95 kilogrammes of combined food commodities–maize, beans, oil and salt.
WFP also provides mobile phones to heads of families to facilitate electronic money transfer.
Apart from Kigeme, efforts are also being made to introduce the cash aid programme in Nyabiheke refugee settlement.
Once complete, this will bring the number of camps where refugees get cash instead of food rations to three out of the total five camps in the country.