Ambassadors and representatives of the international community join UNHCR in solidarity with refugees in advance of world refugee summits in Rwanda
“The UN Refugee Agency in Rwanda appealed to Ambassadors and Representatives of various countries and organisations around the world for more support to the refugee response in Rwanda during an unprecedented visit to Mahama refugee camp.”
Mahama Camp, Eastern Province: In a week in which Mahama Refugee Camp’s population surpassed 50,000 refugees, over 20 ambassadors and representatives of international organisations joined the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in a visit to the camp in order to meet refugees and see their living conditions first-hand, and also monitor the facilities and services which are funded by international donors. The visit comes just ahead of the forthcoming UN General Assembly Summit for Refugees and Migrants and President Barack Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis, both of which will take place this week. .
Joining Mr. Saber Azam, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda, were ambassadors and representatives from international organisations and countries around the world including the United States, Kenya, Canada, Egypt, Belgium, Germany, South Korea, United Kingdom, European Union and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The Government of Rwanda was represented by Mrs. Rose Kayumba, the advisor to the Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR).
Touring what has already become Rwanda’s largest refugee camp, which UNHCR and MIDIMAR opened in April 2015, the delegation toured the various facilities and services provided to refugees by UNHCR and its partners, which include a range of UN agencies and non-governmental partners. The visit included a stop at the site of new shelter construction, where UNHCR and partners are working to shift refugee families out of tents and communal hangars—which after more than one year have become very dilapidated—into semi-permanent shelters constructed in mud bricks. As Mahama experienced one of the first big rains of the season, refugees welcomed the visitors into their homes to take cover, and ambassadors were able to speak to refugees about their lives in the camp and their views on the new shelters.
The rains also demonstrated in plain sight the urgent need to improve the drainage conditions in the camp, as the visitors could see for themselves the ravines that are already forming in the camp, which is not even a year and a half old. The delegation also witnessed a new permanent water treatment system being constructed by UNHCR and Oxfam, which treats surface water from Akagera River and will provide water supply for the camp but also for the host communities in the entire Mahama sector, Kirehe district. The visitors met with a women’s cooperative, where they had the opportunity to purchase baskets woven by refugees, and walked through the local Paysannat School where UNHCR constructed 112 classrooms, making it the largest school in Rwanda, and where today, Burundian refugees and Rwandan children attend class side by side.
During the visit, Azam expressed gratitude to the delegation for their visit. “It is really through this presence that we would like to bring the attention to the world community and say: enough is enough, there should be no more forced displacement.”
During the visit, Erica Barks-Ruggles, the Ambassador of the United States in Rwanda, committed to continue supporting refugees.
“This visit is very critical for us to see the situation on the ground and work on the challenges facing refugees. Being the world’s largest contributor to refugee matters, the US will keep providing for refugees and increase the funds to improve refugee welfare,” she said.
Alluding to UNHCR’s funding gap—currently UNHCR’s operations in Rwanda are only covered at 36%— the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom in Rwanda, William Gelling, said that his country will keep supporting refugees in Rwanda. “The UK will continue to contribute as much as we can and will focus on increasing provision and self-provision of livelihoods, making people less dependent on agencies in the camp and be self-sufficient in the future,” he said.
Mrs. Rose Kayumba, the advisor to the Minister of MIDIMAR commended the UNHCR. “I thank UNHCR for the good work that has been done. Mahama refugee camp is heading towards semi-permanent shelter, making this among the best camps in the region,” she said.
UNHCR in Rwanda ensures protection and assistance for over 165,000 refugees living in six refugee camps, five reception/transit centers, and also those living in urban areas. UNHCR also supports the return of thousands of Rwandan refugees coming home after years living in asylum in other countries.
For more information please visit www.unhcr.org/rw
- Martina Pomeroy, External Relations Officer, [email protected] , Tel: +250-252-589-874, Cell: +250 (0) 78-830-2769
- Erika Fitzpatrick, Associate PI/Reporting Officer, [email protected] , Tel: +250-252-589-874, Cell +250 (0) 78-838-9828
Communications/PI Associate, UNHCR
E-mail: [email protected]