Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid visits Gihembe Refugee Camp

HRH Sarah Zei interacted with refugees, UNHCR and implementing partner staff to better understand first-hand achievements – and challenges faced – in the area of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, but also challenges implied by the lack of lighting in the camp and alternative to cooking energies.

Gihembe Refugee Camp, Gicumbi District – Her Royal Highness (HRH) Sarah Zeid, Princess of Jordan visited the Gihembe Refugee Camp situated in Gicumbi District in the Northern Province of Rwanda.

HRH Sarah seized the opportunity of being in Rwanda yesterday, Monday 12 November, to visit Gihembe refugee camp which hosts more than 13,300 Congolese refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for more than 20 years. Together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), together with the camp manager from the Ministry in charge of Emergencies Management as well implementing partners staff operating in different areas such as health, neo- and post-natal care, family planning, nutrition, etc. HRH Sarah was able to meet and interact with refugee men and women on the challenges they are facing on a daily basis. She was also able to witness at first-hand the tremendous needs that are unmet in the areas of health and nutrition, but also the dramatic conditions of the shelters and the lack of energy and lighting in the camp which pose serious protection concerns to all the 13,300 women, children and men living in the camp. During her focus groups discussions, she was able to note that the main issues raised by the refugees are, after health and nutrition, the lack of lighting in the camp, alternative solutions to cooking energy (as distribution of firewood will be ceased as of 2019 further to a Government policy), lack of livelihood opportunities and lack of child friendly spaces are of big concern to them.

The princess also visited the maternity ward in the Gihembe Health Center where she interacted with health care workers, pregnant and lactating mothers, among others. Thereafter, she visited the Nutrition Centre located within the camp, where she met with teenage mothers and had conversations with them to hear about their struggles and triumphs despite the hard conditions they are forced to endure on a day-to-day basis.

While walking towards the health center, HRH Sarah Zeid said “I recall that during my last visit of refugee camps in Rwanda in 2016 – when I went to Gihembe and Mahama camps – I was able to notice the already-existing challenges and gaps that needed to be addressed to ensure that physical and protections risk faced by refugees face can be diminished. Unfortunately, to my big surprise, I am saddened to report that the situation of the refugees living in Gihembe have remained unchanged or worse, have deteriorated.”

The UN Refugee Agency stated that amongst the main main reasons for this worsening conditions are the lack of available resources and funding from the donor community. Needs and challenges are augmenting while funding is shrinking. As a result, objectives cannot be met and gaps are only to increase in these circumstances.

Her Royal Highness has also thanked the Government of Rwanda for its hospitality and support they continue to provide to the more than 150,000 refugees living in the country.

HRH Princess Sarah Zeid, who was recently appointed UNHCR “Patron on maternal and neonatal health”, sought to better understand the situation on the ground regarding reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH), and the challenges met in the drive to increase awareness and uptake of family planning in the more vulnerable sections of the population, most especially the refugee community.

HRH Sarah Zeid has also participated in the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning in Kigali on Tuesday 13 November where she joined the Global Leaders Creating Positive Change panel composed of H.E. Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, H.E. Martine Moise, First Lady of Haiti, H.E. Toyin Ojora Saraki, Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation and Mrs Alma Golden, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, USAID Bureau for Global Health and myself to discuss women in leadership roles around the world who are agents of change in their communities and countries and how to create a culture that empowers women to become positive disruptors. Through philanthropic achievements, work within humanitarian settings, youth outreach efforts and beyond, women have impacted the family planning, economic empowerment and social justice fields in extraordinary ways.