Operation: Opération: Rwanda



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
144,000 refugees benefited from protection and assistance programmes
7,896 Burundian refugees assisted to repatriate voluntarily
1,069 resettlement departures were facilitated, including 194 evacuated from Libya through the ETM
794 Rwandan returnees reintegrated into Rwanda
100% of refugees and asylum-seekers were registered on an individual basis
100% of refugees in camps received food assistance
100% of refugee households in camps received cash assistance for core relief items
100% of people of concern living with HIV were supported through antiretroviral therapy
0 maternal deaths were recorded in refugee camps with 99% of child deliveries assisted by trained health staff
2021 planning figures
143,500 refugees will benefit from protection and assistance programmes
40,000 Burundian refugees will receive support to voluntarily repatriate
3,000 Rwandan returnees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo will receive reintegration assistance
1,500 refugees and asylum-seekers will be evacuated from Libya to Rwanda through the Emergency Transit Mechanism
100% of refugees and asylum-seekers will be registered on an individual basis
100% of primary school-aged children will be enrolled in primary education
100% of people of concern who have expressed their intention to return will be supported to return voluntarily
0% mortality rate for under 5-year-old children (per 1,000 persons per month) will be attained
20 litres of potable water will be provided per person per day

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2020 154,542
2019 153,025
2018 152,597


[["Refugees",139501],["Asylum-seekers",465],["Returned refugees",936],["Others of concern",13640]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[101.21378467,104.378181188,98.77603889,102.75124387000001,108.96196515000001,87.03894401000001],"expenditure":[44.64500707,42.13502654,35.33416822,41.84664384,54.38811245,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[95.18270004,96.81308674799999,95.47573026,100.10124411,106.31196517000001,84.33904401000001],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[6.03108463,7.56509444,3.30030863,2.6499997599999996,2.64999998,2.6999],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[43.36483925,38.24165204,33.15910884,40.43048354,52.4980281,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[1.28016782,3.8933745,2.17505938,1.4161603,1.8900843500000002,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

Rwanda has welcomed refugees for over two decades and continued to receive new arrivals in 2020, providing a favourable protection environment supported by its national legal framework.
Since the Leaders’ Summit in 2016 and the adoption of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in 2018, the Government of Rwanda made nine pledges at the Global Refugee Forum in 2019 focusing on education, livelihoods, protection, environment, energy and health. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Rwanda was the first country to develop thematic action plans for each pledge. The country’s operational response is in line with this inclusive protection and solutions approach.
As the Burundi refugee crisis approaches its sixth year, the situation for Burundi refugees remaining in Rwanda has largely stabilized, while the elections in May 2020 in Burundi allowed for the voluntary repatriation of Burundian 7,896 refugees.

The strategy for the Congolese refugees who have lived in Rwanda for almost 24 years remained focused on their inclusion in national systems and strengthening livelihood opportunities to lower their dependance on humanitarian assistance.

Following the conclusion of a tripartite agreement between the Government, the African Union and UNHCR in September 2019 which established an Emergency Transit Mechanism (ETM), over 500 refugees and asylum-seekers were evacuated from Libya to Rwanda, including more than 200 in 2020. Movements temporarily halted in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but resettlement departures resumed later in August 2020 and ETM evacuation flights resumed in November 2020, with a total of 1,069 resettlement departures facilitated in 2020, including 194 evacuated from Libya through the ETM.

Population trends

In 2020, Rwanda hosted 139,501 refugees, mainly from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (74,303) and Burundi (65,037). This included some 674 refugees and asylum-seekers who arrived during the year. Women and children made up 76% of the population.
In 2020, 922 Rwandan refugees returned home from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  

Key achievements

  • A refugee verification exercise was completed in all refugee settings. The exercise confirmed the number of registered refugees and updated the biodata of refugees.
  • Primary health care services were 100% accessible and free of charge to both refugees and local communities in all camps.
  • Refugees were integrated into the national viral hepatitis management by the Ministry of Health to test and treat positive cases.
  • Refugees were included in the national COVID-19 prevention and response plan.
  • All urban refugees and students in boarding schools had access to the national health insurance system.
  • Evacuation from Libya to the ETM in Rwanda continued, with 209 refugees and asylum-seekers evacuated from Libya in 2020.
  • All refugee students were integrated into national primary and secondary schools.
  • 155 hectares of land were made available for joint agricultural projects to improve the food security, social cohesion and income of refugee and host community farmers.

Unmet needs

With the operation only 45% funded in 2020, the level of assistance and protection services was consequently limited.
  • School facilities were limited with a ratio of 90 students per classroom; students studied in two shifts due to COVID-19 preventive measures.
  • There were recurrent challenges in maintaining the provision of food assistance.
  • 20% of refugees lacked adequate shelter.
  • Scarcity of land resulted in congested camps with no space for camp extension and limited agricultural projects.
  • There was reduced support for self-reliance activities, with fewer than 12,250 refugees and host communities engaged in income-generating activities compared to 17,000 refugees in 2019.
  • The erosion of land and soil put refugees in the camps at risk from natural hazards.

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

Thanks to unearmarked funding, UNHCR was able to continue delivering essential protection services and life-saving assistance in the areas of health, water, sanitation and hygiene, cash assistance and shelter to all refugees in camps in Rwanda, while supporting the national COVID-19 prevention and response in refugee-hosting areas. For instance, refugees continued to access primary, secondary and tertiary health services, adequate quantity of water and sanitation facilities, and core relief items and domestic cooking energy through both cash and in-kind assistance The rehabilitation of some old shelters was carried out and funds were used to avail human resources for both UNHCR and partners. 
Thanks to softly earmarked funding for the Burundi situation, UNHCR in Rwanda was able to maintain the refugee response for Burundian refugees in Mahama camp and urban areas while supporting the implementation of durable solutions for almost 8,000 refugees who had expressed their wish for voluntary return to their country of origin.

Working environment

The political and security environment in Rwanda remains stable and is anticipated to remain peaceful through 2020. Rwanda currently hosts over 149,000 refugees and asylum-seekers from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who constitute 1.2% of the country’s population.
As the Burundi refugee crisis approaches its fifth year, the situation has stabilized and the influx of refugees from Burundi has been slow over the last two years. There has however not been an increase in voluntary returns to Burundi given the political tensions and continued displacement. While UNHCR is currently not facilitating voluntary return to Burundi, spontaneous returns do take place.
The strategy for the Congolese refugees who have lived in Rwanda for almost 23 years is focused on inclusion of refugees in national systems and scaling up livelihoods so refugees can become self-reliant and contribute to the local economy.
With the recent political transition in the DRC, UNHCR is exploring the possibility of facilitating a tripartite dialogue with the Governments of the DRC and Rwanda. This would provide guidance on the readiness of durable solutions.
Since the adoption of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in February 2018, the Rwandan authorities and UNHCR envision a comprehensive solutions approach for refugees in the country which includes access to all durable solutions. In parallel, the Government is leading a process of Strategic Planning for refugees’ inclusion. The Government’s integration scope is built around four commitments promoting refugee access to documentation, refugee economic inclusion and refugee integration in national systems in the areas of Education and Health.
The Refugee Coordination Model in Rwanda is co-coordinated by the Government and UNHCR. It includes a range of UN Agencies, NGOs, operational and development partners. UNHCR also coordinates sector working groups, co-coordinating with partners where relevant.
UNHCR as an active participant in the One UN and UNCT has since 2017 been advocating for the inclusion of refugees and returnees in the UNDAP II (2018-2023) and the national development agenda. UNHCR is also an active participant in the UNDAF task force. 

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will:
  • Enhance the coordination with the Government of Rwanda and other partners, including UN agencies, NGOs, operations and development partners;
  • Ensure reception, protection and assistance for all people of concern, including new arrivals, with targeted assistance for people with specific needs and a community-based approach;
  • Expand cash-based interventions to gains in efficiency and effectiveness, and promote refugees’ financial inclusion and contribution to the local economy
  • Pursue the roll out of alternative cooking energy solutions in all camps in line with the national policy banning the use of firewood;
  • Reinforce advocacy and strategic development partnerships in order to support the authorities for the inclusion of all refugees in national systems in particular health and education, in line with Government policy;
  • Support the Government of Rwanda in its efforts to promote the economic inclusion of refugees with the objective to foster refugees’ Self-Reliance and their progressive Graduation out of humanitarian assistance;
  • Seek durable solutions to refugee situation.
Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 14-OCT-2021
  • Qatar

    private donors

  • 12-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Ireland
  • Italy

    private donors

  • 09-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 08-OCT-2021
  • Japan

    private donors

  • 06-OCT-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 05-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 04-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 01-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2021

    private donors

  • Switzerland

    private donors

  • Brazil

    private donors

  • Philippines

    private donors