The Situation for Children in Rwanda
Rwanda has made remarkable progress since the 1994 genocide, particularly in promoting good governance and delivering essential services to the poor. It is one of the few African nations on track to achieve seven of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
However, the country remains one of Africa’s poorest and most densely populated nations. Half of its citizens are under the age of eighteen and 45% live below the poverty line. The incidence of poverty is higher in rural (49%) than in urban areas (22%). Households headed by children and families from historically marginalised communities are even more vulnerable, particularly to external shocks, such as natural disasters.
Rwanda has made tremendous progress in improving child survival. Under-five mortality rate has fallen from 153 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 76, with maternal mortality dropping from 1,075 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 487 in 2010 (DHS,2010) However, over 50,000 children under the age of five continue to die annually from diseases like diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection and malaria.
In addition, 44% of children under five years old suffer from chronic malnutrition and a quarter of the population still does not have access to an improved drinking water source or improved sanitation facilities (DHS, 2010).
Thanks to a policy to make primary education free, 95.9% of students; more girls (97.5%) than boys (94.3%) are enrolled in primary school (MINEDUC 2011), but completion (24%), dropout (12.2%) and repetition rates (14%) for both boys and girls, remain key challenges, along with the switch from French to English as the language of instruction. The latter will clearly impact the quality of education for the immediate future, but is being dealt with through the development of a strategy to address broader issues of the quality of education, including major investments in teacher training and development.
HIV and AIDS
While Rwanda is one of a few African countries with relatively low HIV prevalence, estimated at about 3% of the adult population, prevalence rates amongst pregnant women in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, range between 16 and 34%.
Young people, especially girls, remain at increased risk of contracting the disease and an estimated 22,200 children under the age of 15 live with HIV. The country has made significant progress in scaling up services for HIV positive children, with 75% receiving anti-retroviral treatment (ART) and wants to eliminate the transmission of HIV from mother to child by 2015, making remarkable progress in scaling up services for pregnant women. 82% of health facilities provide PMTCT services, with more than 72% of pregnant women now being able to access PMTCT services (DHS 2010).
Children remain at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse in Rwanda. The National Child Labour Survey in 2008 found that 11% of children work - half of them in hazardous conditions.
Statistics from the National Police indicate that girls account for 65% of all cases of gender based violence at the One-Stop Centre in Kigali (RNP 2011).
More than 3,000 children live in orphanages and some 1,000 are currently housed in transit homes or centres for street children.
With UNICEF’s assistance, the Government has strengthened policies related to social protection and Gender-Based Violence and put in place a National Children’s Commission and model centres for child survivors of violence. This year, the Government also intends to begin a process of de-institutionalisation, finding families for more than 3,000 children that currently live in orphanages.