As 2020 comes to a close, many families will never remain the same, as the Covid-19 pandemic leaves behind a trail of social dysfunctions in the country, whose impact will still be felt long after the virus is gone.
As people’s patterns of life changed largely as a result of the government's efforts to combat the spread of the virus through implementing a host of containment measures, other problems emanated.
Although the actual social cost of the pandemic cannot be readily quantified, containment measures for instance keeping children at home for a long time led to a sharp increase in early pregnancies, growth in the number of street children, among others.
Up to 1,500 girls are reported to have been defiled and impregnated in Rwanda during the first three months of the lockdown that started in March, while some contracted sexually transmitted diseases.
Relatives defiled some girls, while others were lured by men in the community using money, as household incomes contracted due to job losses.
More than 7,000 students are expected to drop out of school when the academic year begins as defilement, teen pregnancies, early marriages, domestic violence and child labour threaten future of Rwandan children.
According to World Vision, since March, attempts to avert the global health crisis saw nationwide school closures in 194 countries, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners — over 90 per cent of the world’s school-going population.
The UN estimates that nearly 11 million primary and secondary school learners worldwide — 5.2 million of whom are girls — are at risk of not returning to education following school closures, with these closures expected to lead to increases in teenage pregnancy by as much as 65 per cent.
In Rwanda the number of street children has also sharply increased this year, as children flee their homes due to domestic violence, as well as poverty.
Some families can barely get what to feed their children, so they opt for going out on the street to rummage through dustbins for leftover foods or to beg. Nsabimana Nicoletta, head of Santre Marembo Organisation, which rehabilitates and integrates street children into families, said
“The number of street children in Kigali and suburbs has exponentially grown due to the fact that poverty levels have shot up in many homes due to effects of Covid-19,
“The government and its partners will have to employ special efforts to deal with this problem before it gives birth to other problems”.
Women and children have gone as far as knocking on peoples' gates asking for food hand-outs, clothes or money, some of whom are people who were previously engaged in informal businesses, but have since collapsed as the Covid-19 pandemic obliterated many sectors of the economy.
When the country went into lockdown, families spent long periods of time together, and this exasperated the cases of domestic violence and divorce.
According to a lawyer who Rwanda Today talked to, who preferred anonymity, the number of people filing for divorce has shot up this year, although proceedings were also affected by disruptions that came with the pandemic.
The lawyer revealed that the main factors of divorces this year, range between one spouse discovering infidelity of the other party, domestic violence while others front irreconcilable differences rooted in misunderstandings to do with money.
The mass loss of jobs also shuffled up domestic dynamics, bringing forth new breadwinners, which increased social stress and conflicts in households.