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UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Rwanda


UNHCR Global Appeal 1999 - Rwanda

1 December 1998

Basic Facts

What we do

Protect and assist refugees and support and monitor the reintegration of returnees; help returnees recover their property; provide support to the judicial system; assist the Government of Rwanda in its efforts to create trust among the population; and provide multi-sectoral assistance to Congolese and Burundi refugees.

Who we help

Some 32,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 3,000 Burundi refugees, and more than 2.8 million returnees.

Our requirements

US$ 30,635,529

Our offices

Kigali, Butare, Byumba, Kibungo, Cyangugu, Kibuye, Gisenyi.

Our partners

Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Communal Development and Resettlement, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Vocational Training, Ministry of Justice, Gendarmerie Nationale, Concern Worldwide, African Humanitarian Action (AHA), American Refugee Committee (ARC), Médecins sans Frontières Belgique (MSF-B), Norwegian People's Aid (NPA), Caritas, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Red Barnet, Joint Commission for Repatriation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Rwandese Refugees (JCRRRR), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), Oxfam-UK, Oxfam-Québec, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Care International, Various NGOs and Women's Associations funded through MIGEFASO.


Ethnic conflict was at the root of the 1994 war and genocide in Rwanda in which nearly one million people lost their lives. Half the country's 7.5 million population was uprooted during the fighting that year. More than 2.4 million of them fled to neighbouring countries, mostly the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and the United Republic of Tanzania, where they were given asylum and accommodated in refugee camps. In 1995, some 800,000 Rwandans who had fled their country during ethnic conflicts in the 1950s and 1960s returned home. In the past two years, another two million refugees returned to Rwanda. Thus the Government of Rwanda, and the international community, have had to reintegrate nearly one-third of the country's population since 1995.

Current situation

The Government of National Unity, in place since the 1994 genocide, has expressed the wish for all Rwandans to return to help rebuild the country. Rehabilitation activities started in most areas; but the north-west of the country remains insecure and inhospitable to rehabilitation efforts. Northwest Rwanda is also the most fertile part of the country; but almost no food crops are being cultivated there, resulting in food shortages and poverty in the region and inflation in the rest of the country. The Rwandan population also remains traumatized by the events of 1994. The Government's efforts to reintegrate people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds has not proven easy, especially given the difficult economic conditions they must endure.

People in need of protection and assistance

In addition to providing assistance to the 2.8 million returnees, UNHCR helps another 35,000 refugees: persons from the DRC who are accommodated in two camps, Kiziba (Kibuye Prefecture) and Gihembe (Byumba Prefecture), some 800 Burundian refugees housed in Kigeme (Gikongoro Prefecture), and urban refugees on an individual basis. Most refugees are women, children and elderly people who require special attention. The refugee population from the DRC fled the Masisi region (North Kivu) during 1996 and 1997. This population is Tutsi in origin and Kinyarwanda-speaking.

Burundi refugees in Rwanda fled ethnic conflict in their country and include those who arrived in the country between 1972 and the end of 1993 (75 per cent of the total) and those who arrived after 1994. Rwanda also hosts some 3,000 urban refugees, most of whom are from Burundi and the DRC, who receive assistance on an individual basis.


For Refugees

UNHCR works to protect and provide material assistance to refugees from the DRC, Burundi and other countries; strengthens the capacity of the Government of Rwanda on refugee issues by helping draft refugee legislation and organizing seminars on refugee jurisdiction; and helps the Government identify and implement durable solutions for the refugees, including repatriation, local integration or resettlement.

For Returnees

UNHCR assists and monitors the reintegration of returnees by helping returnees recover their property and assisting them with alternative housing, supporting the judicial system and supporting the Government's efforts to create trust among the population. The agency is also concluding activities which were not implemented during 1997 and 1998, mainly because of lack of funds. In doing so, UNHCR is ensuring that its phase-out is implemented in an orderly and responsible manner, within the framework of the UNDP/UNHCR Joint Reintegration Programming Unit (JRPU). The outstanding reintegration activity remains the construction of 25,000 new houses and associated latrine facilities, water supplies and logistical support. Since UNHCR plans to phase out the Rwanda programme by December 1999, the agency is involved in discussions with the Government, UNDP and other development partners on an exit strategy that will ensure the sustainability of the basic services that have been (re)established through UNHCR's activities. UNHCR also promotes the social and economic empowerment of Rwandan women through the Rwandan Women's Initiative.

Protection and Solutions

UNHCR works to ensure that respect for refugees' basic human rights is upheld. The location of refugee camps is under consideration; camps too congested or too close to the border must be closed. In 1998, refugees from the DRC were transferred to Gihembe refugee camp in Byumba and Burundi refugees were consolidated in Kigeme refugee camp in Gikongoro.

If conditions in the country of origin are conducive and the refugees can return in safety and dignity, UNHCR will help them repatriate. UNHCR has assisted in the return of some 7,000 Burundi refugees since 1991, including some 1,200 from the Kibangira camp in Cyangugu Prefecture in September 1998. This camp was subsequently closed.

UNHCR is continuing its efforts to rebuild the judicial system so returnees can be assisted in their reintegration. The agency also continues to support women's rights, including inheritance and property rights, under the Rwandan Women's Initiative. Returnee monitoring will continue through 1999. The mid-1998 departure of the United Nations Human Rights Field Operation for Rwanda (UNHRFOR) from Rwanda means that UNHCR will now have to conduct judicial seminars and training of Inspecteurs de Police Judiciaire (IPJs) and Officiers de Police Judiciaire (OPJs). UNHCR supports the Government's efforts to create trust among the population at the grass-roots level. The agency does so practically by holding workshops in seven prefectures encouraging the population to openly analyse their problems and find solutions that increase the possibilities for peaceful co-existence. UNHCR complements its protection mandate activities in Rwanda with reintegration activities focusing on shelter, water and sanitation, health and education.


Some 80 per cent of the refugee population is comprised of women and children. Lactating women and small children need supplementary feeding, which UNHCR provides in nutritional centres in the camps. Women who are victims of sexual abuse benefit from reproductive health education. Refugee women are encouraged to participate in committees that maintain the camps.

Fifty-four per cent of Rwandans are women; 34 per cent of all households are headed by women. The Rwandan Women's Initiative (RWI) was created in 1997 to provide women with greater economic independence and a sense of self-worth. The RWI, conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender, Family and Social Affairs, addresses the related problems of discriminatory customary practices, homelessness, inadequate health care and post-genocide trauma. To help women contribute more fully to the communities in which they live, UNHCR supports the active participation of women in the economic, social, health and cultural development of Rwanda; promotes women's rights and their role in the administrative, political, legislative and judicial spheres of society; and works towards ending violence against women. In 1999, small-scale income-generating and skills-development projects that were not implemented in 1998 will be given high priority.


Programmes for refugee children in the camps consist mainly of community-based activities, including preventive health care, primary education, and vocational training and other youth-oriented activities, as well as access to local secondary schools wherever possible. Recreational activities, albeit modest, will be encouraged in the camps.

The number of children affected by the genocide, internal insecurity and/or AIDS and who have become orphans or unaccompanied minors as a result of these tragedies is estimated at some 400,000. Since 1994, UNHCR, ICRC and NGOs reunited some 60,000 children with their families.

Some 5,000 unaccompanied minors live in 48 children's institutions. These institutions help trace the parents of the unaccompanied minors or, if that proves impossible, help find homes in families willing to foster them. UNHCR, in collaboration with various NGOs, assists more than 1,000 unaccompanied minors in five centres throughout Rwanda. Tracing and reunification activities, as well as reception at the borders and initial care, will continue in 1999.

For returnee children, UNHCR's primary aim will be to try to normalize their lives and alleviate poverty wherever it can. Many of these children may have extended families or at least one parent; but their families may not be able to support them. The Government of Rwanda has decided to close all children's institutions and use these facilities for schools and/or centres for vocational training. Fostering has thus become the only alternative for unaccompanied children. UNHCR plans to support 'cooperatives' of foster families to provide an integrated approach within the community.


UNHCR supports the forestry programme that is redressing damage done to the environment by massive shelter programmes and refugee camps. In addition to reforestation programmes, UNHCR has also introduced, in both camps and settlement sites, energy-saving stoves that reduce energy lost by open cooking fires by at least 60 per cent. The use of "paper poles" for shelter construction is also being investigated.


To ensure a smooth transition from emergency relief to development, UNHCR and UNDP joined forces with WFP and FAO in enhancing the role of the Joint Reintegration Programming Unit (JRPU) to plan the implementation of future programmes. UNHCR will continue the reintegration programme in 1999 within the framework of the JRPU. This programme will cover those activities which were not funded under the 1998 Rwanda Appeal, as well as shelter materials for the construction of some 25,000 houses. The work of the JRPU will be the subject of a joint evaluation mission to be fielded by the respective headquarters of UNHCR and UNDP at the end of 1998. Based on the evaluation, a joint "exit strategy" will be drafted, aimed at promoting sustainability of the basic services that have been restored under the reintegration programme.

Lessons Learned

More emphasis should have been placed on capacity-building and practical training at the outset. Government and NGO partners could not provide timely reporting on the impact of assistance provided; and that, in turn, affected credibility with the donor community. The shortfall in funding created considerable difficulties in prioritizing needs. Cooperation and coordination within the United Nations system should be reinforced to benefit from the different agencies' strengths and achieve greater efficiency.


Planned activities could be jeopardized by deteriorating security conditions, especially if there is no access to returnee areas. Bad weather conditions are also a risk, as heavy rains and storms can destroy houses under construction, while drought can impede construction activities.


The programmes detailed above help people rebuild their lives. The impact of UNHCR's shelter programme has been particularly important. By the end of 1997, UNHCR had supported the construction and rehabilitation of 73,862 houses in rural areas. UNHCR's water and sanitation programme has rendered 98 per cent of the shelter sites fully accessible to potable water. Yet two years after the mass return, tens of thousands of families still live in refugee-like conditions under plastic sheeting.

Budget US$

The budget includes costs in Rwanda and at Headquarters.

ActivitiesSpecial Programmes
Domestic Needs/Household Support1,110,000
Water Supply1,315,000
Shelther/Other Infrastructures10,306,000
Community services2,547,000
Legal Assistance/Protection787,000
Agency Operational Support910,000
Programme Delivery Costs*4,405,927
Administrative Support Costs1,679,602

* Includes costs for protection, monitoring and coordination.