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Families in Rwanda sweat to put food on the table as Covid-19 invade poor households

Wednesday May 05 2021
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A family receives food relief to cushion its members against hard economic times caused by Covid-19 lockdown. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE

Despite food aid distribution, subsidy offer on utilities and suspension of property tax review the government to ease pressure on pandemic-hit households, budgets are still constrained due to biting inflation.

Low-income and poor homes expected the cost of living to ease when government in August last year announced suspension of new transport tariff that would have seen fares increase by more than 40 percent, and later deferred the highly-disputed property tax increment.

However, the predicted impact is yet to be felt months later due largely to the fact that incomes of most households are still shaken yet cost of essentials including energy, basic foodstuffs, education and transport continue to skyrocket.

The situation was exacerbated by the March rise in pump prices, to Rwf1,088 and Rwf1054 a litre of gasoline and diesel respectively from Rwf987 and Rwf962.

The spike in fuel prices that since sent those Liquefied Petroleum Gas up by Rwf300 a kilo, and quickly reflected in costs for all basic consumer goods and services.

For instance, producers who include commercial farmers and manufacturers decried increased expenses on diesel or petroleum to power machinery, thus high cost of production passed on to consumers through pricing.

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A survey on the market indicated that this, coupled with prevailing market supply bottlenecks as a result of localized lockdown in rural parts of the country, left the poor and low income households grapple with increased costs of basic foodstuffs and other essentials even as they contend with reduced incomes.

For instance, Emmanuel Dusingizeyezu who heads a family of three can barely afford to put food on table after the general income losses and market disruption due to Covid-19 left him earning too little to cover home needs and afford him daily movements between his home in Kabuga and Kigali where he is trying hands in a vending.

A former bartender, who lost income after the pandemic led to prolonged closure of bars, currently contends with the high cost of getting to his working place for him to make ends meet, pay rent, school fees and utilities.

โ€œFor me the main problem is that the little one makes is eroded by the chaotic transport under the current restrictions.

Most people here will tell you that they spend half of the daily earning to beat curfew,โ€ he said

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