UNHCR and MIDIMAR highlight key achievements for Congolese and Burundian refugees and Rwandan returnees in 2016

The commitments made by Rwanda at the Obama summit will help refugees to move out of dependence on humanitarian assistance towards lives of self-reliance.

Today, the Ministry of Refugees and Disaster Management (MIDIMAR) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which lead the refugee response in Rwanda held a press conference in Kigali to recapitulate the key achievements in 2016 as well as progress towards the Comprehensive Solutions Strategy for Rwandan returnees.

The Hon. Minister of MIDIMAR Serafine Mukantabana and UNHCR Representative in Rwanda Mr. Saber Azam both addressed the media and commended the work achieved while also acknowledging the generosity of donors who made the achievements possible. “The rights to protection and easy access to basic facilities for approximately 160,000 refugees hosted in Rwanda is possible due to the continued collaboration between the Government of Rwanda and UNHCR with our partners,” said Minister Mukantabana. “We are committed to continue initiatives that improve the lives of these people.”

On September 20 2016, Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo announced at the Obama Leaders’ Summit on Refugees that Rwanda’s “Vision 2020 and our different development strategies and the SDGs adopted by Rwanda aim at improving the socio-economic development of both Rwandans but also […] refugees.” The Minister also made the following commitments for refugees on behalf of the Government:

  • Implementation of joint Government-UNHCR strategy for refugees’ socio-economic inclusion and livelihoods
  • 100% of refugees in possession of valid refugee identity cards by end of 2017
  • Refugee students (100% secondary; 50% primary) integrated into Rwanda’s national education system by end 2018
  • 100% of urban refugees accessing MUSA by end 2017

“UNHCR in 2016 has advocated within development fora including the One UN for the inclusion of refugees in national systems, so that we can give refugees the opportunity to contribute to the development and economy of the country, in line with the spirit and substance of the SDGs,” said Representative Azam. “The commitments made by Rwanda at the Obama summit will help refugees who have been living in camps in Rwanda for 20 years to move out of dependence on humanitarian assistance towards lives of self-reliance in which they are boosting the economies of their hosting areas,” Azam continued.

Thanks to the generous support of donors, UNHCR had a budget of USD 47.1 million for its Rwanda operation in 2016. Representative Azam drew attention to the progress towards transition away from emergency facilities to more dignified structures in Mahama Camp:

  • Just last month a permanent water treatment system was opened in Mahama Refugee Camp, which will supply clean water for the refugee camp but also the surrounding host communities
  • Additionally, UNHCR and partners constructed over 1,830 durable shelters, with 3,000 more underway, so that half of families in Mahama have moved out of deteriorated emergency tents and into more dignified mud-brick homes
  • UNHCR and partners built 81 classrooms in the local school near Mahama Camp—on top of 112 constructed in 2015—making it the largest school in the country
  • UNHCR with its partners constructed two health clinics in Mahama Camp, replacing the emergency clinic opened at the start of the Burundi emergency in April 2015. A permanent Isolation Centre is also underway.

In terms of protection, UNHCR and MIDIMAR supported the return and reintegration of 5,082 Rwandan returnees in 2016, including introducing cash assistance via mobile phone transfer in lieu of the in-kind support provided in previous years. UNHCR will have submitted 4,000 Congolese refugees for resettlement primarily to the United States in 2016 as part of its mandate to find durable solutions for refugee situations, with 2,905 departing thus far in 2016. UNHCR supported 58% of refugee children with birth registration and also ensured prevention and response for sexual and gender-based violence including through installation of solar lighting in public areas. As of end 2016, 58% of refugee students are integrated in national schools thanks to the Government’s generous policy of inclusion. Four schools have been constructed including 178 classrooms, which increased the absorption capacity of national schools to integrate 12,200 refugees in the school year 2017 (8,200 in Primary and 4,000 in Secondary).

This week UNHCR will sign initial partnership agreements with 15 national and international nongovernmental organizations based on its starting budget for 2017 of USD 34.9 million. UNHCR engages partners in its operations globally as they bring essential complementary capacity and expertise.

“I am pleased to announce that for its 2017 operations UNHCR has signed its initial agreements with 15 partners, who will make key contributions to the protection and assistance to Congolese refugees as well as Burundians. As we continue to fundraise on behalf of refugees we hope to increase the amount we allocate to our partners during the course of the year,” said Mr. Saber Azam.

The interventions of UNHCR and its project partners are complemented by critical contributions of sister UN agencies who support the humanitarian response for refugees in Rwanda, including WFP, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO, UN Women, IOM and FAO, who together have so far mobilized USD 5.2 million for their important interventions in the 2016 Burundi refugee response.

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UNHCR Representative in Rwanda Saber Azam at a press conference at Marriott Hotel, Kigali – Rwanda. The conference was held in order to recapitulate UNHCR – MIDIMAR key achievements in 2016 as well as progress towards the Comprehensive Solutions Strategy for Rwandan returnees. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana

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MIDIMAR Minister Hon. Seraphine Mukantabana at a press conference at Marriott Hotel, Kigali – Rwanda. The conference was held in order to recapitulate UNHCR – MIDIMAR key achievements in 2016 as well as progress towards the Comprehensive Solutions Strategy for Rwandan returnees. ©UNHCR/Eugene Sibomana