Operation: Opération: Rwanda



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Key Figures

2018 year-end results
3,060 Rwandan returnees received return packages
20.8 litres of potable water, on average, available per person per day for the Burundian population and 16.5  liters for the Congolese population
100% of return has been voluntary, and carried out in safety dignity
100% of refugees in Congolese camps receiving cash for alternative clean cooking solution
100% of Burundian refugees in Mahama camp to receive LPG as alternative clean cooking solution
74.3% of Congolese refugee children and  65.2% of Burundian refugee children enrolled in primary school
2019 planning figures
100% of primary school-aged children will be enrolled in primary education
100% of identified SGBV survivors will receive appropriate support
90% of children under 12 months old will be issued birth certificates by the relevant authorities
2,500 Rwandan refugees will receive return packages
0.4 The under-5 mortality rate will be maintained at or below 0.4

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2018 152,597
2017 191,392
2016 164,080


[["Refugees",141617],["Refugee-like situation",3743],["Asylum-seekers",420],["Returned refugees",3077],["Others of concern",3740]]
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2018 {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"budget":[51.77383169,123.04000345,101.21378467,104.378181188,98.77603889,92.75124387],"expenditure":[19.3520492,39.48045656,44.64500707,42.13502654,35.33416822,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[49.14538088,122.417859367,95.18270004,96.813086748,95.47573026,90.10124411],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[2.62845081,0.622144083,6.03108463,7.56509444,3.30030863,2.64999976],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2014,2015,2016,2017,2018,2019],"p1":[18.31857805,38.96277319,43.36483925,38.24165204,33.15910884,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[1.03347115,0.51768337,1.28016782,3.8933745,2.17505938,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2014
  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019

Operational Context

During the reporting period, Rwanda remained politically stable in a region characterized by insecurity, hence the risk of attracting sudden mass influx from neighboring countries remains.  Rwanda maintained open borders throughout the year, and generally provided a favorable protection environment with de facto right to work and a high-level commitment that all durable solutions should be made available to people of concern.
Rwanda officially initiated the application of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in March 2018. The Government also made commitments to locally integrate refugees through the inclusion of their basic services in national systems such as education, health insurance and documentation. This is partly facilitated through the national identity cards and machine readable convention travel documents (MRCTDs), which the Government has started issuing for refugees with the support of UNHCR. The identity documents will enable better access to public services and employment, with support from UNHCR.
Maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of the camps remained of concern. Furthermore, limited livelihood opportunities are aggravated by insufficient farming land, limited trade between the camp and host communities, lack of appropriate documentation, and limited access to financial services.

Also, a significant shift in humanitarian response was the Government of Rwanda’s directive of October 2018 to cease the use of firewood in the refugee camps to alternative clean cooking solution which took effect from January 2019.

Over 3,000 Rwandese refugees were repatriated in 2018, out of an estimated 200,000-250,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and nearly 10,000 in the Republic of the Congo. Security challenges in the DRC prevented UNHCR from conducting a smooth registration of Rwandese refugees.

Population trends

At the end of 2018, Rwanda hosted some 152,580 people of concern, including 73,300 refugees from the DRC and 68,280 from Burundi. Approximately 3,060 Rwandan refugee returnees were recorded during the year.
90% of the people of concern live in refugee camps and the remaining have settled in alternative-to-camp settings, predominantly in Huye and Kigali urban areas.

Key achievements

  • In 2018, a verification exercise was conducted in favor of urban refugees registered in Kigali and Huye which saw a decrease of 62% and 77% respectively in the refugee population. The verification was also conducted in the three protracted camps of Gihembe, Nyabiheke and Kiziba and the population dropped by between 10% and 8% per camp.
  • With the support of UNHCR, in 2018, the Government began issuing MRCTDs. Of a total of 192 requests, 108 MRCTDs were issued.
  • By the end of 2018, 98% of urban refugees were individually registered and biometric data captured.
  • Cash-based interventions were expanded in all of the camps: 74,510 Congolese refugees received cash assistance for NFIs and 58,280 Burundian refugees received cash assistance for a duration of 3 months.

Unmet needs

Due to limited resources, assistance to urban refugees was limited to only a small number of targeted people and covered only healthcare, with financial assistance being provided to the most vulnerable urban refugees to avoid relocation to a camp. Unmet needs for urban refugees include non-food items, including basic household and sanitary items. Furthermore, some of the most basic humanitarian standards such as access to adequate quantities of water remain unmet. The services provided by the health and education infrastructures set up years ago remained sub-standard.

Due to the government policy of moving from double shift to single shift in primary schools, the classrooms are now congested, affecting the learning environment of refugee children.

Lack of land to expand the congested camps as well as access to adequate shelter remain of concern. Many refugee families continued to live in community hangars instead of family shelters. The plastic sheeting of approximately 3,200 shelters needs to be replaced with corrugated iron sheet roofing. In older camps some 1,700 additional shelter need to be built.

Lack of resources for environmental conservation has exacerbated the environmental degradation with uncontrolled storm water causing expansion of ravines and further reducing land for shelter construction.

90% of refugees continued to depend on humanitarian assistance as access to livelihood remained a challenge due to lack of agricultural land.

Working environment

Rwanda has been hosting thousands of refugees for decades, and today is home to over 170,000 refugees and asylum-seekers mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Government has maintained open borders and refugees who have been allowed to settle in urban areas, with over 32,000 registered refugees living and working outside camps. The Government supports the refugee response through provision of land for reception centers and refugee camps, leads camp management and coordination, and has demonstrated progressive approach to refugees by committing to include them in national systems like health insurance and education.
UNHCR co-leads the refugee response with the Government, coordinating construction and management of camps and all protection and multisectoral assistance programmes. The refugee response includes a range of UN agencies and local and international NGO actors, as well as private sector partners. However, in five protracted Congolese camps, UNHCR and WFP are the only operational UN agencies.
While the overall security situation in Rwanda remains calm, the political instability in neighboring Burundi and eastern DRC continue to present a risk of an influx of refugees. Currently, Rwanda receives approximately 150 new refugee arrivals from Burundi per week.
Rwanda also receives thousands of Rwandan returnees each year, and UNHCR has increased its facilitation of voluntary return in advance of the end 2017 deadline for organized return agreed at the 2016 Ministerial Meeting on the Comprehensive Solutions Strategy relating to Rwandan refugees.

Key priorities

In 2018, UNHCR will focus on: 
  • Furthering the socio-economic inclusion of refugees and reduce dependency on humanitarian aid through a multi-year, multi-partner approach aiming to expand the integration of refugees in national systems and implementing a joint Government-UNHCR market-based livelihoods strategy to improve refugees’ self-reliance and ability to live independently from humanitarian assistance;
  • Continuing to advocate for access to the asylum procedure for individual asylum-seekers who are not benefiting from prima facie recognition and working with the Government to assure functioning asylum procedures; 
  • Supporting the Government to implement the commitments made at the 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees to integrate refugees in national systems for education, health insurance access and national documentation system; 
  • Forging strategic partnerships with the Government, development actors and One UN to include refugees in the national development plan and UN Development Assistance Plan;
  • Promoting access to land and expanding Mahama camp to ensure that in the immediate term all refugee families live in dignified shelters. In the long term, alternatives to camps will be explored whereby some self-reliant refugees move out of camps and camps are transformed into villages, and all refugees and host communities are accessing national services.
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