Quality of life in any country is measured by the level at which it takes care of vulnerable persons especially women and children, the elderly and persons with disabilities, among others.
Until the time the RPF-Inkotanyi came to power, in Rwanda, social protection was a privilege of the few connected people the same people with opportunity to employment, and the mass citizenry was abandoned to their hopeless fate.
As a result, life expectancy dipped to 49 years just before the genocide against Tutsi in 1994.
The only institution to offer social protection was the “Caisse Sociale du Rwanda” (Social Security Fund of Rwanda), whose membership was exclusive for the formally employed persons.
Social assistance to the needy and other vulnerable persons was not considered government business.
It was left to charity organisations – especially the church – and families, without any Government policy or clear operational framework.
Rwanda registered tremendous strides in social protection over the last two decades in the aftermath of the Genocide.
After the Genocide, RPF-Inkotanyi, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, repatriated and reintegrated into their home country, more than three million refugees of all kinds. That was the strategic decision in social protection and it is a success story.
The biggest challenge was to address issues and effects of the genocide against Tutsi, which was unprecedented. The Fund for the Support to needy survivors of the genocide against Tutsi (FARG) was created in 1998, with five components namely; shelter, health, education, direct support and income generating activities.
Under the education component, since its establishment up to the fiscal year 2016/17, the Fund disbursed more than Rwf84billion that benefited to more than 150,000 students in secondary schools and about 60,000 in higher learning institutions respectively.
In the health sector, FARG has so far catered for 2,508,054 cases inside Rwanda and 468 cases outside the country at a total cost exceeding RwF 15 billion.
The Fund has disbursed a total exceeding Rwf9 billion to 53,596 beneficiaries on income generating activities, and more than Rwf16 billion were paid to 641,631 beneficiaries, including the elderly and the childless (incike) as direct support.
Under shelter scheme, 28, 174 new houses were constructed at a total cost of about Rwf25billion, and 4,123 houses were rehabilitated at a cost of Rwf1billion.
The Government adopted the first social protection policy in 2005, aiming at harmonising all social protection interventions across the country to contribute towards poverty reduction.
In 2006, President Paul Kagame initiated “Girinka” (One cow per family) with mixed objectives including economic development and fighting against malnutrition. It has benefited to 298,859 neediest Rwandan families.
The 2008-2012 Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) was adopted as a holistic framework for poverty eradication and it earned support from different development partners.
In 2007, extreme poverty stood at 37% of the total population and today, it has shrunk up to as less as 16% in less than two decades.
From the fiscal year 2011/2012 to 2016/2017, the Government spent more than Rwf487 billion in social protection programmes.
Vision 2020 Umurenge (VUP) is an integrated rural development programme to eradicate extreme poverty and release the productive capacities of the poor. It has three components – public works, financial services and direct support- and was adopted among the EDPRS major flagships.
The Government has spent more than Rwf210 billion under VUP, which benefited to 832,963 persons in public works, 435 048 households in direct support and 403 728 persons accessed 112,317 loans in financial services.
Loans under this component are disbursed to needy persons who come together with a shared transformational project which is jointly implemented and managed.
In 2009, the Government embarked on the eradication of thatched houses under “Bye bye Nyakatsi” campaign, while providing shelter to all vulnerable persons.
In 2016, in a bid to modernize housing and human settlement, with special focus to the needy and vulnerable persons in high risk zones, the Government launched model villages, ensuring that every Rwandan has a decent home.
At the same time, efforts and campaigns geared towards the eradication of malnutrition were launched, with special attention for the needy and pregnant women and young children under two years.
All Rwandans have right to access to health insurance – with Government contribution for the needy- whose coverage stands now at above 85% of total population.
Persons with disabilities, youth and women have been empowered, and they are now represented in all decision making positions.
All social protection interventions and policy measures, combined with inclusive governance actions, bore significant results. Child and maternal deaths reduced significantly, and support to vulnerable groups remains a priority for the Government.
As I conclude, what I can say is that Rwanda is a country making great strides towards prosperity, life expectancy moved from 49 years in 1994 to 64 years in 2014, and more than 650,000 Rwandans uplifted from extreme poverty from 2011 to 2014. Social protection is not about money, but impact.
The writer is a political analyst and member of the PanAfrican Movement Rwanda Chapter
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.