More families line up for relief food as impact of Covid-19 bites

Tuesday May 26 2020

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A vulnerable citizen holds a package of flour after receiving it as a support initiative to vurnarable families. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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For Fabu Butera, a resident of Kabuga in Kicukiro District, it has been a difficult period after going for two months without a steady income. His employer suspended his contract because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before the pandemic, Mr Butera was employed at a power project in Gisagara District and supplemented his income with rent from his rental unit.

That has changed since his tenant lost his job and vacated the house. Mr Butera is one of the people in category III of the socio-economic classification but as many who lost sources of livelihood when the pandemic struck he has no choice other than queuing for occasional food relief distribution.

He said partial lifting of lockdown had not improved his situation since he has not found another income-generating activity.

Mr Butera’s story is shared by thousands of Rwandans who have lost source of livelihood due to the four-week strict lockdown.

For example, motorcyclists like Moise, who used his daily income to support his family and siblings now finds it difficult to support them.

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However, as he runs into difficulty in feeding his four-member family three weeks into the lockdown, he sold off his motorcycle and used the money to buy food supplies.

The ongoing lockdown has left many unemployed while others continue to lose their jobs.

Protection

This is increasing pressure on government to provide social protection.

The government is mobilising funds for social protection programmes as expenditure is expected to rise with extension to cater for thousands of urban and rural Covid-19 hit families at risk of sliding into poverty.

Concerns were raised over more people going poor while those already in the poor categories risk to slide into acute levels owing to the Covid-19 pandemic that paralyzed all forms of casual livelihoods activities, a led to loss of source of income for many in the informal sector.

Those at risk of falling in the vulnerability trap are households currently in the relatively economically-stable category two and three, families with bigger household sizes, elderly, people with disabilities and women headed households.

A section of them in urban and rural areas have already been relying on relief food supplies from the government and well-wishers.

Official figures show that the distribution of food stuffs has reached at least 55,272 households out of an estimate of 212,882 households in need in Kigali alone. According to the Ministry of Local Government, the government plans to expand social protection schemes already in place to accommodate new beneficiaries.

There will also be accompanying measures that will see the families get assistance in terms of shelter, education and health insurance subsidies.

Graduation

“We want to move towards sustainable graduation of beneficiaries from poverty. The support will go on for two years to ensure that they are able to sustain themselves to a level where they can even withstand other shocks,” said Samuel Dusengiyumva, permanent Secretary at Ministry of Local Government.

He did not reveal how much it would cost as budget is still under negotiations with the treasury.

“We have had a couple of meetings with ministry of finance and other partners who are willing to provide financial support. I can’t really state estimates at the moment,” he said.

Details of the economic recovery plan had estimated budget required to implement Social Protection Response and Recovery Plan to Covid-19 is at Rwf133.6 billion.

The implementation of the plan is slated for the next fiscal year in July when Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA) is expected to kickstart identification of beneficiaries.

LODA officials indicate that those to be included are largely subsistence casual workers who have lost their employment opportunities, as well as thousands of families affected by the floods over the past weeks.

Ministry of Emergency Management said recent floods displaced more than 9,251 people, who are temporarily hosted at public facilities across the country.

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