The Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDMAR) on Wednesday launched the use of smartcards that will facilitate refugees at Nyabiheke camp to access food rations.
Nyabiheke, which hosts refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is now one of the camps where refugees are allocated money rather than food rations.
Addressing the refugees and other stakeholders, the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, said they found it necessary for refugees to receive money instead of food, mainly maize and beans.
“The government together with our partners decided to give refugees the freedom to make their own choices on what they would like to eat or buy,” she started.
“Being refugees shouldn’t strip one of the right of choice,” she added.
The smartcard will initially be loaded with Rwf6, 200, an amount each refugee is entitled to per month for food from World Food Programme (WFP), but according to the minister, the smartcard can be adopted by other benefactors to ensure all supplies are monetised.
“We proposed to all our partners to deliver their assistance through this smartcard. The UNHCR, like WFP, will do the same,” she said.
Mukantabana said the use of these smartcards will cover all the six refugee camps in the country, including Mahama camp (which hosts Burundian refugees), so essentials like beddings and utensils are supplied in monetary form.
“So far, we have covered three of the camps in the country; Gihembe, Kigeme and Nyabiheke. We hope that by the end of the year, we will have covered all of the camps,” said Mukantabana.
Jean Claude Mutabazi, a representative of the refugees in Nyabiheke camp, thanked the government and its partners for the introduction of the smartcard, saying that this makes them feel like other citizens in the country.
“With this smartcard, we are exposed to the ICT Rwandans enjoy,” he added.
According to the minister, refugees will, in the end, be self reliant.
“Our goal is to have all refugees sustaining themselves because dependence on aid and handouts itself degrades humanity,” said Mukantabana.
Speaking at the event, UNHCR country representative, Azam Seber, promised the refugees that the organisation’s aid will be coming in form of money to their account and encouraged the refugees to start saving to start-up businesses.
“Every individual has a way they can be efficient in their spending. That way, when we give you the money for buying something that you still have, you can choose to save that money,” he said.
WFP representative Jean Pierre Demargerie thanked the government for making it possible to have refugees receive money instead of food and promised to increase the monthly amount of money the refugees get per head.