IRC Rwanda Project

Originally published
Project Purpose
To assist the Government and people of Rwanda in rebuilding and redeveloping their country following the 1994 genocide and civil war which claimed nearly one million lives, and the subsequent repatriation of nearly two million refugees from neighboring countries.

Project Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries include approximately 1.5 million Rwandans living in prefectures where IRC implements water and sanitation, community development, community support, unaccompanied children, health, micro-credit, rehabilitation and repatriation assistance programs.

Project Activities

Rehabilitation or construction of homes and educational facilities Re-establishment of health care services and supplies in Kibungo, at hospitals, health centers and pharmacies which includes medical supplies and materials, logistical support, training and capacity building Construction or rehabilitation of water and sanitation systems Support of an unaccompanied children's center as well as assistance to vulnerable families in the form of shelter, agricultural and livestock loans and educational assistance Implementation of a large scale community development program designed to enhance civic society through infrastructure, rehabilitation and income-generating projects totaling $3,000,000 which are initiated, designed and managed by the community Provision of micro-enterprise loans and training to rural groups, cooperatives and individuals totaling over $600,000 since project inception Construction, maintenance and management of transit camps and border posts for returning refugees including the distribution of food and non-food items.


On April 6, 1994, the airplane in which the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were traveling was shot down outside of Kigali, Rwanda. This incident signaled the beginning of events that resulted in the loss of nearly one million lives, the displacement of over two million people and the ongoing destabilization of the region.

In 1994, ethnic Hutu extremists orchestrated genocide unprecedented for the swiftness in which killings occurred, targeting the minority Tutsi population and Hutu moderates residing within Rwanda. A civil war ensued, resulting in the mass exodus of over 2,000,000 Hutus to the neighboring countries of Tanzania, Zaire and Burundi. Although stability subsequently occurred, a war erupted in Zaire in 1996 that dramatically altered the calm. An unanticipated 1.3 million refugees returned home in record time, placing a severe strain on an already fragile country infrastructure.

The return of the refugees also signaled a return of political instability in Rwanda. Many of the "Interhamwe," (those responsible for the genocide), re-embarked on terrorist activities in the northwest regions of the country. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (the former Zaire) rebel groups recently initiated a war near Rwanda's borders. This event has increased regional instability and could have dire implications for the Great Lakes Region as a whole.

The Role of IRC

IRC began assistance in Rwanda immediately following the genocide and war of 1994. The initial focus was on relief operations and the rebuilding of damaged schools, public health facilities, water systems and judicial buildings. Recognizing the overwhelming need for assistance at all levels, IRC expanded its program to include not only physical but socio-economic rehabilitation as well. Utilizing a community-based approach where possible, IRC works with the community and government to assist in: the rehabilitation and construction of water, sanitation and educational facilities throughout the country; the management of an unaccompanied minors center and an attendant re-integration program to reunite children with missing relatives; a community development fund which provides money to individual communities to select, design and manage projects; a microcredit program which provides loans to individuals and groups through a revolving fund; and, a community support program which provides agricultural and livestock loans to such vulnerable populations as widows, and child-headed households.

IRC also manages and supports transit camps and border posts, providing essential services for refugees who continue to return home from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. IRC is also in the process of investigating efforts by the country to assist the hundreds of thousands of persons displaced from their homes as a result of the continued insurgency in the northwest region.

IRC Rwanda Contacts:

Heidi Wagner, Country Director
Liz McBride, Program Coordinator

IRC Headquarters Contacts:

John Keys, Regional Director for the Great Lakes Region
Mary Louise Eagleton, Program Assistant for the Great Lakes Region

<> - November 4, 1998 Copyright 1996