Humanitarian action and emergencies
UNICEF reaches out to children in greatest need and at greatest risk in Rwanda.
Rwanda’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on 14 March 2020.
Following the first case of COVID-19 in March 2020, the Government of Rwanda closed schools and passed initial lockdown measures to help curb the spread of the disease. Although new cases continue to rise, they are also balanced by an increasing number of recoveries. Very few deaths have been recorded. All confirmed cases of COVID-19 are being monitored and contacts have been traced.
For ongoing updates on COVID-19 in Rwanda:
Rwanda hosts over 150,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from two countries.
In April 2015, Burundians fled their country for Rwanda following a political crisis and subsequent civil unrest. Currently, Rwanda hosts 69,000 Burundian refugees in Mahama Camp. Over 50 per cent of these refugees are children.
Children are the most vulnerable in a crisis and therefore the most affected. Over 4,000 are out of school, over 2,000 arrived unaccompanied or separated from their parents, and they often suffer from chronic diseases due to lack of nutrition and basic health care. The influx of refugees has resulted in overcrowding and limited access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene, increasing the likelihood of disease outbreaks. Women and children in transit are often also victims of sexual- or gender-based violence, causing additional psychological distress.
Five camps for refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were established in 1996, 1997, 2005, 2012 and 2014. The United Nations Refugee Agency - UNHCR - took full responsibility for these camps in 2012. There are currently about 76,200 Congolese refugees in Rwanda, as well as 5,200 asylum-seekers.
Rwanda remains vigilant against Ebola.
Beginning in August 2018, the DRC faced a large-scale epidemic of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, with importation to Goma and South Kivu provinces. Since the start of the outbreak in August 2018, there were 3,470 EVD cases reported and 2,287 people died (WHO, 26 June 2020). Around 28 per cent of cases were children, a larger proportion than reported in previous outbreaks of Ebola.
As one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, and with high-quality transport infrastructure, Rwanda would be at high-risk of rapid spread of EVD. In 2018, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) developed an Ebola preparedness plan and activated mechanisms to minimise the risk of importation. UNICEF was a key partner in the development and implementation of this plan.
Throughout the outbreak in DRC, Rwanda remained free of Ebola. On 25 June 2020, the Minister of Health of the DRC declared the end of the EVD outbreak in North Kivu, Ituri and South Kivu Provinces. Although there is an ongoing outbreak of Ebola in the western part of DRC, Rwanda is not considered at risk.
Responding to COVID-19
The Ministry of Health leads the COVID-19 response in Rwanda. A National COVID-19 Response Plan was developed in March 2020 with eight pillars:
- Leadership and coordination
- Epidemiological surveillance
- Points of entry
- Infection Prevention and Control (IPC)
- Case management
- Risk communication and community engagement
UNICEF supports the Government to implement this plan in Rwanda, especially by:
- Reaching the public with messages on COVID-19 prevention and access to services;
- Engaging the public in risk communication;
- Providing health facility staff and community health volunteers with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
- Training health facility staff and community health volunteers on infection prevention and control;
- Training healthcare providers to detect, refer and manage cases of COVID-19 among children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers;
- Training parents and caregivers with young children on maintaining proper nutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Supporting children with distance or home-based learning while schools are closed;
- Assisting schools to re-open safely and according to protocols;
- Providing children without parental or family care with alternative arrangements, such as adoption or foster care.
The Ministry of Emergency Management and UNHCR coordinate the refugee response in Rwanda. However, UNICEF intervenes in water, sanitation and hygiene; education; early childhood development; child protection; health; and nutrition for Burundian refugees living in Mahama Camp.
UNICEF's humanitarian strategy with the Government and other partners is to provide comprehensive services to refugees and seek fulfilment of their basic rights. This includes registration, shelter, household equipment, food and water, maintaining sanitation and hygiene, health and nutrition services, education, and protection.
In health, UNICEF helps provide essential vaccines for all children under five in Mahama. These vaccines include BCG, Polio, DTC, Hepatitis B, Haemophilus Influenza B, Rotavirus, Pneumococcal Conjugate and Measles/Rubella. Pregnant women are also provided with the Tetanus Toxoid vaccine.
In nutrition, UNICEF helps supply ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) to treat severe acute malnutrition, and micronutrient powders to fight anaemia in pregnant women and other vitamin deficiencies in children.
In early childhood development, UNICEF is constructing early learning and care centres for children aged 3-6 years, and trains parents and caregivers on how to provide appropriate and stimulating child care at home. Nearly 6,500 children are being reached by these services.
In education, UNICEF helps integrate Burundian refugee children into Rwandan schools, helping them participate in Rwanda's national education system. UNICEF has also provided scholastic materials - such as backpacks and notebooks - and equipped nearby schools with computers and other ICT equipment to improve the quality of education.
In child protection, UNICEF helps reunite unaccompanied and separated children with their families. UNICEF also helps train case workers who monitor cases of sexual- and gender-based violence, as well as facilitators who manage the child-friendly spaces, where children can play, learn, and simply be a child to relieve some of the trauma associated with their migration. Over 7,500 children and youth use these spaces on a weekly basis.
Download the latest situation report on Ebola preparedness in Rwanda.
The Government of Rwanda immediately activated Ebola preparedness interventions in 2018 to minimize the risk of importation or cross-border transmission. UNICEF supported the Government in several important areas to help prevent Ebola from entering Rwanda:
- Preparedness and simulation exercises
- Pre-positioning of supplies
- Risk communication and community engagement
- Training of district and health workers
UNICEF was a regular member of Technical Working Group meetings and adhered to the Government's Risk Communication and Community Engagement Strategy.
UNICEF helped the Government take several important actions to prevent Ebola by:
- Placing an infection prevention and control consultant in the Ministry of Health
- Constructing an Ebola Treatment Centre
- Procuring supplies like soap, chlorine, handwashing stations and water tablets
- Training district and national staff on Ebola prevention
- Conducting a knowledge, attitudes and practices survey on Ebola preparedness
- Disseminating behaviour change messages through print materials and radio spots, as well as through community gathering platforms and home visitations
- Developing awareness messages for social workers and child protection frontline workers
Although the risk of Ebola in Rwanda has subsided for now, UNICEF and the Government remain vigilant against cross-border transmission should there be a new case in the Eastern DRC.