Vulnerable families are up in arms against the government’s plan to scrap social protection programme to pave the way for the National Strategy for Sustainable Graduation which is expected to limit beneficiaries.
The number of vulnerable people entitled to social protection privileges in Kigali city, for example, has been cut down from 28,000 people to 4,000.
While the government argues that the programme seeks to empower the needy to become self- reliant, some families that have benefited from government support are concerned that withdrawing the support will subject them to untold sufferings.
In the heart of Kigali’s Cyimihurura sector, amid a sprawling slum near an enormous water gully, sits a small, muddy bedsitter that has been home to Louise Muteteri, her four children, and one five-month-old grandson for the past 17 years.
Like many families in the area, the government has marked Muteteri’s family as vulnerable and relies solely on government assistance to make ends meet. The loss of her husband to sickness in 2015 left the 47-year-old mother as the sole breadwinner of the family, and with no income or employment opportunities, she struggled to provide for her children.
She had hoped that her eldest son, who is now approaching his 20th birthday, would finish his studies and help support the family, but he developed a mental illness that made it impossible for him to either study or work.
Her 17-year-old daughter, was forced to drop out of school two years ago when she prematurely got pregnant. She has no plans of returning to her studies but hopes to opt for vocational training.
With no employed family members and no source of income, Ms Muteteri and her family have been relying solely on government social protection support since 2016.
“I am grateful for the government for all these years. If it wasn’t for the assistance, I would not have been able to bring up my children. The money is little but even if I could work, I would not be able to make enough to sustain the family,” Ms Muteteri recounts in her home as she pours milk into a plastic bottle to feed her grandson.
The assistance they receive amounts to a monthly allowance of Rwf25,000, along with covered health insurance. While the family is grateful for the support they receive, it barely covers their expenses. They spend Rwf15,000 on rent, and Rwf5,000 on toiletries, leaving only a small amount for food and charcoal that lasts for only a few days.
Ms Muteteri and her family are among the 27,000 people that live under government assistance in Kigali City alone. The social protection strategy that sup- ports them has been in place since 2012.
Last year, a new social protection strategy was rolled out and is expected to lift more households out of poverty. The new strategy, however, will see the number of people under government assistance cut to just 4,000 people in the city of Kigali.
“I have never worked for any amount over Rwf10,000 per month. I cannot afford to provide for my family unless I get a permanent job," she said.