Refugees in the country are pleading with humanitarian agencies to increase thier funds due to an increase in key food items.
Officials from the humanitarian agencies say there is a need to confirm whether the existing price hikes were as a result of speculation by the supplier or a general increase across the country, to determine if there was a need to revise the allocation upward.
Currently, the cash transfers are Rwf6,800 per refugee per month, which is based on the local market prices of the food rations previously offered under the in-kind food distribution.
Jean Bosco Kwibishatse, the representative of the Burundian refugees in Eastern Mahama camp, said that while the existing amount of cash transfers was enough at that time when it was introduced, a significant increase in food costs had affected their purchasing power in markets in and around the camp.
“We have brought these issues to the attention of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the authorities of the country that hosts us.
We call for a fresh market assessment to determine the factors behind the price spikes, and whether the amount of money we get should be revised,” said Mr Kwibishatse.
Rwanda Today found that the concerns on food availability and market prices in and around the camp frequently feature at monthly meetings held jointly by humanitarian agencies, representatives of refugees and ministry officials.
For instance, the refugees said the cost of most food items, which includes maize flour and rice increased by between 30 to 40 per cent from December last year.
The 25kgs maize flour bag that cost between Rwf7,500 and Rwf8,500 in Mahama now costs Rwf12,000 while the cost of rice moved from Rwf12,500 to Rwf15,000 a bag.
The cost of these items also went up in Kiziba camp where food protests broke out last year following a 25 per cent cut in food rations.
The refugees said price hikes had also raised the cost of charcoal from between Rwf8,500 and Rwf9,000 to Rwf15,000.
Gonzague Karagire, a refugee at Kiziba camp said there are a few people who have managed to find work in parts of the country in order to support their families back at the camp.
However, humanitarian agencies say the cost difference was not significant enough to trigger a change in the amount of cash the refugees get.
According to WFP, which funds the refugees’ basic needs through cash based transfers and in-kind food assistance, said food prices had increased by more than 20 per cent since 2014 with a big peak registered in 2017 due to the drought. Emma Grylle, head of external partnerships and communications at WFP, said the agency was now focused on raising the funds needed for the second half of 2019 estimated at $14 million.
Rwanda currently hosts around 149,000 refugees.