Fact sheet: ICRC in Rwanda

Situation Report
Originally published
General Situation
Today, Rwanda is still suffering the after-effects of the 1994 genocide and massacres, which according to different estimates left between 800,000 and one million people dead. Since then, persistent efforts have been made to rebuild the country's infrastructure, which was totally destroyed. However, the security situation remains volatile in some areas.

One of the country's main challenges remains the significant numbers of people in prison. Since 1994, efforts have been made to revive the judicial system and to rebuild the prison infrastructure, which had disintegrated, leaving prisons in need of complete repair.

On the economic front, Rwanda's dependence on agriculture has led to over cultivation and environmental degradation caused by soil erosion. The result is a diminishing land base for a growing population whose main means of sustenance is farming.

The ICRC delegation is located in Kigali with sub-delegations in Kigali, Butare, Cyangugu and Ruhengeri and 6 offices throughout the country.

Major activities

Photo Tracing:

The priority for the ICRC tracing service remains family reunification for children separated from their parents during the mass repatriations in November 1996, following which over 28,000 unaccompanied children were registered. By the end of 1998, 87% of them had been reunited with close relatives. In June, 1998, a third album was published in conjunction with UNICEF containing photos of children too young to give any information about their identity or the whereabouts of their families. Since the launch of the programme in May 1997, the photos of a total of 1,655 unidentified children have been circulated, and as a result some 700 children have been reunited with family members.

Assistance for Genocide Survivors:

The ICRC continues to concentrate its efforts on assisting the most vulnerable among the survivors of the 1994 genocide. Although poverty is rife throughout Rwanda and the needs are enormous among all sectors of the population, this group, estimated at about 150,000 people, remains the hardest hit and the least likely to receive assistance from other sources. Many were profoundly traumatized by the events and still bare physical and psychological wounds.

The ICRC's programmes for this vulnerable group mainly target widows, orphans, disabled and elderly people. Assistance is provided via local associations and includes food and non-food supplies, as well as training and materials for agriculture and livestock-breeding. The aim is to set up projects that provide beneficiaries with a sustainable source of income or help them on their way to self-sufficiency.

Education and Promotion of International Humanitarian Law (IHL):

Given the country's recent history and the prevailing situation, promoting compliance with humanitarian rules, spreading awareness of general humanitarian principles and raising the profile of the ICRC and the Red Cross remain an essential task in Rwanda. The field specialists who form the network set up for this purpose receive continuous training and guidelines were established. Great emphasis is placed on increasing the capacity of all ICRC and Rwandan Red Cross staff to included IHL education in their day-to-day activities and on promoting IHL within the Rwandan military. The ICRC initiated discussions with the Rwanda Patriotic Army in order to develop a plan of action for permanent instruction in the law of war within the force.

Water and Sanitation Program:

The ICRC continues its programmes designed to restore or provide a reliable water supply in both urban and rural communities. A survey was conducted to determine the need for the rehabilitation and improvement of water-supply systems in repatriation/resettlement areas. The systems had been damaged during the events of 1994 or just afterwards, when no management or supervision was in place, and the relevant authorities still lacked sufficient financial and/or human resources to restore the supply to pre-1994 standards. The ICRC engages in technical and material cooperation with the national water, gas and electricity board to allow rehabilitation and carry out work on water projects throughout Rwanda.

The ICRC activities in Rwanda cover a wide spectrum of humanitarian activities, such as:

  • Visits to prisoners to check on their material and psychological conditions of detention:
Between January and September 1999, the ICRC:
  • Visited 111,011 detainees in 121 places of detention.
  • Up to August provided 6,939 tonnes of food, including Nutriset-enriched milk to malnourished detainees held in central prisons, and 135 tonnes of material assistance and basic medical supplies.
  • Restoring family links through the Red Cross Message Network (RCM):

    The ICRC exchanged 18,661 RCMs between detainees and their families.

    From 1994 to 1999, the ICRC, along with other organisations, has carried out the reunification of 67,922 families.

    • Providing assistance to vulnerable people:
    Up to August 1999, the ICRC provided 314 tonnes of food and 20 tonnes of non-food items to vulnerable groups including survivors of the genocide and displaced people.
    • Cooperation activities with the National Society:
    In 1998, the ICRC held discussions with the Rwandan Red Cross with a view to setting up a tracing service within the National Society and trained branch secretaries in tracing techniques.

    In 1999 ended support to the District Hospital of Kibuye and to the prosthetic/orthotic workshop in Gatagara (as part of a project delegated to the Swiss Red Cross).

    • Promoting and facilitating seminars to spread the basic rules of International Humanitarian Law and humanitarian principles.
    Budget and Staff

    The 2000 budget for the ICRC Rwanda is SFr 43,263,055.

    Personnel includes:

    71 expatriates.
    541 locally hired staff.

    Ref. LG 2000-008-ENG