Today Rwanda is hosting over 170,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries, 80% of whom are living in six refugee camps managed by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) and UNHCR.
In these camps refugees are dependent upon humanitarian assistance, and it is hoped that the agreement to deliver aid in the form of cash will reduce dependency on aid but also contribute to host community economies and trade.
“Refugee camps in Rwanda are places where refugees have access to markets and services in the same way that Rwandans do. Providing refugees with cash will enable families to fulfill their needs in a more dignified manner by determining for themselves what their priorities are, and will also enable refugees to contribute to the growth of economy of the host communities, even more than they already do,” said UNHCR Representative in Rwanda Mr. Ahmed Baba Fall.
Together with partners, WFP Rwanda is already providing food assistance using cash based transfers (CBTs) to over 72,000 people in five camps hosting Congolese refugees.
CBTs were first introduced to Rwanda through a pilot in Gihembe refugee camp in January 2014 and then scaled up to other camps of Nyabiheke, Kigeme, Kiziba and latterly Mugombwa camp which received CBTs as of September 2017.
Until now, UNHCR has been providing refugees with in-kind support, providing shelter, water, sanitation facilities and distributing to all families kitchen sets, jerry cans, blankets, hygiene items and other supplies.
Through the new agreement, UNHCR will replace this in-kind support with cash, so that refugees can buy the items they need in the local markets. Under the new program UNHCR will provide cash for all refugees in Nyabiheke refugee camp, while in Kigeme and Gihembe UNHCR will provide cash only to those refugees who opt for it, while families who prefer to continue receiving in-kind support will have this choice.
Eventually, UNHCR aims to shift from in-kind support to cash throughout the refugee response operation.
“When refugees receive cash, it ensures they have the means to meet their basic needs, while enhancing dignity and choice in their respective refugee communities as well as boosting trade in the surrounding communities,” said Baba Fall.
Since 2015, WFP uses a multiple wallet credit card, which has been considered the best solution in terms of characteristics and potential opportunities vis-a-vis current and future CBT operations. The card was introduced and continues to be used in commercial partnership with Equity Bank.
It has multiple wallets, up to 9 maximum, and each wallet can be used by different agencies, such as UNHCR which is joining the platform through the agreement.
Through this programme, refugees will receive in monthly installments cash based on the market value of non-food Items distributed by UNHCR and household size. By receiving cash, refugees will also have opportunity to pursue livelihoods opportunities in line with the joint Government-UNHCR Strategy for Economic Inclusion of Refugees
Equity bank Rwanda came in agreement with WFP and UNHCR to provide solution of cash assistance by issuing multiple card wallet up to 9 maximum, and each wallet can be used by different agencies. Bank is embarked on technology using master card and BIO POS terminal.
The bank is participating in theprogramme of cash assistance as part of helping needy people by availing financial inclusion in 5 camps; Gihembe, Nyabiheke, Kigeme, Kiziba and Mugombwa.