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By Rakesh Gupta Nichanametla Ramasubbaiah

Rwanda hosts 127,340 refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR living in camps and urban areas, making it the 10th largest host of refugees in Africa as of June 2022. Most refugees originate from the Democratic Republic of Congo (60.3%) and Burundi (39.2%).

As UNHCR Rwanda continues its search for solutions for the forcibly displaced, it is increasingly looking to data and analysis for answers. Both are critical inputs for planning programmes to enhance the socio-economic capacity of refugees and surrounding communities. As part of this process, we recently mapped forced displacement datasets available in Rwanda. Such data mapping allows UNHCR, the government, and development as well as other humanitarian actors to have a view of the statistics and evidence that is already available and can be used immediately to inform our work in Rwanda.

What are the available datasets?

On the plus side, among the datasets mapped, we find a good range of published multi-sectoral data on health, nutrition, food security, WASH, education, and others (see Table 1 and Figure 1).

For example, the Standardised Expanded Nutrition Surveys (SENS) regularly provide and compare results from across locations where health and nutrition data have been collected; however, most focused on specific refugee subgroups (households with children under 5 years old, and households with members with adolescent girls, and pregnant and lactating mothers), with the exception of two rounds of surveys that were representative of the entire refugee population. Another important survey that provides regular updates is the Joint Post Distribution Monitoring (JPDM) by WFP and UNHCR, which shows the state of food security among refugees.

Table 1: Assessment and dataset entries from different sources (as at June 2022)

Listing and sourceNumber of Entries
UNHCR Assessment Registry (for internal distribution only, as of March 2020)64 assessments
Humanitarian Data Exchange / OCHA (as of June 2022)171 datasets
UNHCR Microdata Library14 datasets
UNHCR Raw Microdata Library (for internal distribution only)17 datasets

Figure 1: Overview of data mapping on POCs in Rwanda, by sector/theme (as at June 2022)

Where are the data gaps?

In showing us what’s available, data mapping also reveals where the gaps are. We find there is a significant gap in socio-economic data. There is currently no survey that informs us about the socio-economic well-being of all refugees in Rwanda in a comprehensive way. Notably, there are few statistics on refugee employment, educational attainment, skills of refugees, consumption, or agricultural and non-agricultural activities, among others. (The last socioeconomic survey in 2016 covered just three refugee camps and 18 percent of all refugee households in Rwanda at that time.)

The gaps in these socioeconomic indicators are potential obstacles when UNHCR advocates for the involvement of development partners to invest in area-based plans supporting host communities and refugees. Not having the data makes it difficult for development partners to design effective programmes and evaluate their impact.

In addition, the lack of data, particularly income and consumption data, does not support the measurement of refugee poverty rate in ways that can be compared to the host community, and that can contribute to more effective targeting of support to refugee and host communities alike.

We looked at recent practices in countries like Bangladesh, Chad, Kenya and Uganda, where UNHCR’s collaboration with researchers, the World Bank, the Joint Data Center on Forced Displacement and others have yielded valuable datasets and socio-economic data that are used to inform programming, policy and advocacy. These practices point to several suggestions for how we might improve data and its usage to support refugees in Rwanda. They include:

  • Inclusion of refugees in the next Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV) national household survey. As UNHCR and our partners scale up the availability of forced displacement data, a significant area of investment is in producing socioeconomic data that is comparable between forcibly displaced populations and host communities. The inclusion of refugees in national surveys generates data that can inform interventions to address gaps in their rights and access to opportunities.
  • A standalone skills survey of refugees. Collecting information on their skills as soon as possible after arrival facilitates the provision of job matching or skills training, as the case may warrant. This is essential to helping refugees become increasingly self-reliant during their time of displacement, as UNHCR works to advocate for sustainable solutions. Such a skills survey could complement studies on dimensions and indicators of refugees’ self-reliance (or lack thereof).
  • Population and Housing Census Data. UNHCR Rwanda, while ensuring that the people of concern were included in the August 2022 Census, reinforces contacts with the National Institute of Statistics Rwanda (NISR) and collaborates with the Rwanda Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) to obtain and study the data on persons of concern to UNHCR.
  • Leveraging verification activities for stateless populations. Planned verification exercises for stateless populations in Rwanda could be leveraged to collect more data. For example, in Kenya, a preregistration exercise and socioeconomic survey for the stateless Shona community generated the first quantitative study of a stateless population comparable with surrounding host communities and national data. The effort was implemented by UNHCR Kenya together with the Department of Immigration Services and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, with technical support from the World Bank.

Reliable data is essential when planning appropriate solutions for refugees and surrounding communities. UNHCR and our partners are committed to supporting data collection and analytical efforts in Rwanda, which underpin the collective effort towards a better life and sustainable solutions for people forced to flee.