UN officials celebrate Women’s Day with Burundian refugees in Rwanda
United Nations officials and the donor community in Rwanda on Tuesday visited and celebrated the International Women’s Day with Burundian refugees living in Mahama camp in Kirehe district.
The UN officials included- the Refugee Agency’s Deputy Representative, Mr. Matthew Crentsil, World Food Programme Representative, Mr. Jean-Pierre de Margerie, and Ms. Laure Beaufils, the head of office for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) in Rwanda.
The officials spent a full day programme of activities overseeing progress in the Burundi refugee response, for which the UK development agency DFID has been one of the most crucial donors and they also participated in an exhibition by women refugees who showcased their art and craft collections.
Since March last year, over 77,000 Burundian refugees have fled to neighboring Rwanda fleeing political tension and violence linked to the country’s Presidential elections with the majority over 70% being women and children.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) and UNHCR are jointly leading the emergency refugee response, for which key partners include WFP and other UN agencies as well as Rwandan and international NGOs.
The international community support to UNHCR and WFP for their emergency response to the Burundi refugee influx increased last year, with UK DFID alone contributing £3 million and £1.3 million to UNHCR and WFP respectively.
“I am proud that the UK has been providing support to Mahama camp and the Burundian refugees and I hope the donor community will continue to be generous in 2016 so that all the great work I have seen here today can continue,” DFID’s Beaufils said.
Beaufils added that, “I am honored to have been able to spend time with some of the women in the camp and have been humbled by the courage and resilience they have shown in such difficult circumstances for them and their families.”
DFID’s £ 1,310,000 contribution to WFP facilitated the purchase of food commodities for nutrition activities as well as the monthly general food ratios provided to Burundian refugees in Mahama.
These commodities include maize, beans, salt, vegetable oil and highly nutritious fortified food. The population is entirely dependent on food assistance and has very limited access to other food sources.
“On this International Women’s day we would like to underscore that the refugee women and children are always at the heart of WFP’s assistance as the most vulnerable receive additional food supplements to meet their nutritional needs”, said Jean-Pierre de Margerie, the World Food Programme Representative in Rwanda.
In 2016, the total needs for the Burundi refugee response for all UN and NGO actors are estimated at over USD 94.5 million, however so far only $4.8 million has been received by UNHCR and other agencies— which is about 5% of the operation’s estimated total cost.
Matthew Crentsil, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Deputy Country Representative in Rwanda pleaded with the international community to continue and increase the support to refugees.
“I hope that the generosity of donors we saw in 2015 will be matched in 2016, so that we can continue to protect Burundian refugees in Rwanda and provide them with the lifesaving assistance they need.” he said.