Head of Jica visits earthquake hit region to see rehabilitation efforts
By Sam Nkurunziza
November 2010, Rusizi, Rwanda - A few weeks ago, a team comprising of a Japanese delegation, UNICEF officials and local leaders from Rusizi district in Western Rwanda visited several sites where rehabilitation work is underway following a deadly earthquake that hit the area in 2008.
Hiroshi Murakami, the Resident Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and his team took the time to visit with local leaders, schools and other facilities to see the rehabilitation work in progress. Rusizi was one of two districts, the other being Nyamasheke, that were hard hit by the earthquake that destroyed schools, hospitals, churches, health centres and hundreds of houses, leaving thousands homeless.
In response to the disaster, the Government of Japan provided a grant through UNICEF to empower local communities to rebuild their lives and be better prepared for similar challenges in the future.
The Community Empowerment Grant has since then not only facilitated the rehabilitation and new construction of classroom building and health facilities, but also enabled youth, children and local leaders to establish groups and centers to facilitate local development.
During the visit, the JICA team not only met with some of these groups, but was able to see newly constructed classrooms. “Many things have significantly improved and my government is very proud and happy to support this rehabilitation project,” said Mr. Murakami.
In fact, he was pleased with the reconstruction effort, as well as the community empowerment component of the project, particularly the engagement of local leaders in supporting efforts to improve the lives of children. “Children and youth of the present generation are the future leaders of the country and efforts to make them better people should never be undermined”, said Fabien Sindayiheba, the mayor of Rusizi district in his remarks to the visiting delegation.
“This is the sole reason as to why all of us should care for the little ones especially the orphans and why we so much appreciate your support and the technical advice of UNICEF in implementing this project”, he added.
One of the highlights of the visit was time spent with children who participate in the district children’s forums. These forums or circles of dialogue, set up with the assistance of UNICEF provide children with space to discuss issues affecting them thus actively involving them in development processes affecting them. Flavie Mutamutega, Child Participation Officer at UNICEF explains that this has provided both parents and children with an opportunity to consider obstacles to community and social progress.
“This helps in developing the child in his community by providing him with space for dialogue with adults”, she says, emphasizing that it is a structure that enables members of the same community to appreciate what they have.
In addition to supporting activities to empower children and youth, as well as rehabilitating and reconstructing classrooms and health centers, UNICEF has also supported the local population by setting up a One Stop Centre for the Prevention of Child, Domestic and Genderbased Violence. – amongst the many achievement of the Japanese Community Empowerment Grant.