UNHCR calls for solidarity and continued support in its efforts to strengthen COVID-19 preparedness and response in Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda – In close cooperation with the Government of Rwanda, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is strengthening its COVID-19 preparedness and response measures after three refugees from Kigeme refugee camp were tested positive and 62 people were put in isolation after contact tracing.

On 6 July, UNHCR was informed that two Congolese refugees from Kigeme refugee camp had been tested positive for COVID-19. On 13 July 2020, the third positive case, which was a contact of one of the first two cases, was identified. All the three refugees had been immediately put in an isolation centre for treatment and the authorities, with UNHCR support, have initiated contact tracing. Furthermore, in line with the Government’s directives, previously, mandatory quarantines have been established in all camps to accommodate all refugees who have been away from the camp to ensure risk surveillance.

In line with these plans, UNHCR and partners have improved sanitation, provided personal protective equipment, medical care, and hygiene materials in all refugee camps. Community mobilization and sensitization have been enhanced to provide key messages on COVID-19 to refugees on prevention and response efforts. UNHCR has also extended its cash assistance to 7,000 most vulnerable refugees in urban areas to help offset the negative socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

With the Government of Rwanda intensifying its testing for COVID-19, several new cases have been identified in Rusizi and Kirehe districts, close to refugee-hosting areas and strengthened preventive measures have been put in place in all refugee camps.

The Government of Rwanda has taken the lead in the prevention, mitigation, and response to COVID-19. UNHCR warmly welcomes the inclusion of refugees in the National and District Response Plans for COVID-19.

Despite these proactive prevention measures deployed since the beginning of the crisis in March 2020, refugees in Rwanda continue to be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to limited access to adequate shelter, water, nutrition, sanitation, and health services.

UNHCR has appealed for US$ 3 million to support its COVID-19 response in Rwanda. We are extremely grateful for the contribution of US$ 474,000 received from the US Government and hope other donors will support our efforts to ensure vulnerable refugees, asylum-seekers, and the host communities in Rwanda have access to adequate health services and care.

Rwanda currently hosts 149,149 refugees, mainly from the DRC and Burundi hosted in six refugee camps and urban areas.