A new programme, to be jointly implemented by government and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), has been launched to make the different refugee camps in the country more economically dependent.
Rwanda is home to over 200,000 refugees – based in six refugee camps across the country– from neighbours Burundi and DR Congo.
On the part of Government, the new strategy, unveiled in Kigali on Monday, will be spearheaded by the Ministry for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), according to a statement.
“This strategy is the Government of Rwanda and UNHCR’s master plan on how to put to use refugee camps as markets, and to realise the productive potential of refugees in Rwanda for the mutual benefit of refugee self-reliance and Rwanda’s economic development – particularly in rural areas where camps are located,” reads part of the statement from MIDIMAR.
Congolese refugees live in five camps in Gicumbi, Gatsibo, Gisagara, Karongi and Nyamagabe districts, while the Burundians are sheltered in Kirehe in the Eastern Province.
The strategy is expected to not only empower refugees but also enhance economic development in host communities through refugee self-reliance initiatives.
“The programme is a hands-on initiative that will be adjusted throughout its implementation, depending on circumstances and in open collaboration with all relevant stakeholders, and this document will also be revised accordingly,” the statement added.
Rwanda is one of the countries where refugees are given cash instead of groceries, a practice that is credited with empowering beneficiaries by making them choose what is best for their families and also bolstering economic activity among host communities.
Some of the refugees, particularly Congolese, have been staying in the country since 1990s, having fled conflict in their country.
Most Burundians arrived in Rwanda last year, following the political turmoil and violence that engulfed their country in the wake of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek re-election.