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Rwanda Joint UNHCR/WFP Post Distribution Monitoring - September 2021

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: KEY FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Until May 2021 all registered refugees in Rwanda received food assistance. Against the background of ever-limited resources and recognizing that the refugee population is not homogeneously vulnerable, in mid-2021 WFP and UNHCR initiated the shift to the targeted provision of food assistance based on needs.

A targeting strategy – developed by UNHCR and WFP with support from the Joint UNHCR-WFP Programme Excellence and Targeting Hub - was formulated with the following objectives:

• Identify vulnerable refugee households in need of humanitarian assistance and less vulnerable refugees with higher livelihood resilience who would benefit from livelihoods support;

• Ensure the greatest protection outcomes through strong community participation, communications with refugee communities and risk analysis to inform the approach.
The first Joint Post Distribution Monitoring (JPDM) and vulnerability assessment conducted in December 2020 served to identify refugees’ level of vulnerability based on associated eligibility criteria that defined the targeting approach and which in turn determined the different assistance packages.

The second JPDM served to ensure that the corporate practice of post-distribution monitoring is fulfilled.
Additionally, it assessed the extent to which the targeting approach has – over a period of five months between May and September 2021 – achieved the above objectives. Below is a summary of key findings and recommendations.

KEY FINDINGS

Overall vulnerability among refugee households – defined by livelihood resilience, economic capacity and food access - reduced over a period of nine months between December 2020 and September 2021. Among the surveyed households, the percentage of highly vulnerable households dropped from 71 percent to 59 percent while the share considered least vulnerable increased from 9 percent to 16 percent. Seasonality factors, such as a drop in prices of key staple foods and increased livelihood opportunities at the time of the survey (September) may have also contributed to this positive trend.

However, the reduction in overall household vulnerability has not manifested itself equally across the six camps: while the share of highly vulnerable households decreased over the nine months in Gihembe (40 percent), Nyabiheke (44 percent) and Mahama (52 percent), the already dire situation in the three oldest camps in Kigeme (86 percent), Kiziba (80 percent) and Mugombwa (76 percent) – further increased.

Also, female headed households are more likely to be highly vulnerable (64 percent) than households headed by men (55 percent). Given that targeted assistance had only been implemented for five months prior to the JPDM, the findings observed in this exercise require regular monitoring and validation to detect the impact over an extended period of time overall, as well as at camp level.

The vulnerability-based targeting approach to food assistance implemented jointly by WFP and UNHCR since May 2021 identified and supported the most vulnerable of refugee households. In September 2021, about 82 percent of refugee panel households appear to be stable or are faring better with regards to their overall vulnerability levels in December 2020. While the majority of assisted panel households remained highly vulnerable, the conditions of as many as 22 percent were found to have improved slightly, akin to moderately and least vulnerable households, at the time of the survey in September 2021.

Overall, household food consumption has remained the same since December 2020. A closer look at the food consumption among the panel households – which provide an insight into whether the targeting approach is reaching the most vulnerable - indicate an improvement. About 5 percent of households had poor, 28 percent had borderline and 68 percent had acceptable food consumption. Food consumption among assisted panel households had improved while it slightly decreased for households receiving half ration or no assistance at all.

On the other hand, 82 percent of households were found to engage in food-based coping strategies, compared to 63 percent in December 2020. Most common strategies in those instances include the reliance on less preferred foods and limiting portion sizes at mealtimes. While the adoption of food-based coping strategies is often associated with a deficiency or challenge in food consumption, the food consumption level of the households was not compromised according to the survey results. Hence, further qualitative study and monitoring is required to understand the dynamics at play. Household diets remain insufficiently diverse with hem-iron foods – preventing anaemia – being least frequently consumed. Only 9 percent of households consumed such food items sometimes or on a daily basis.

Despite continued challenges for all households to cover their essential needs, an increasing share of households were found to have a sufficient economic capacity to meet their essential food and non-food needs using their own resources, be it cash and self production. In September 2021, 36 percent of households could afford their essential needs using their own economic resources which compares to 17 percent in December 2020. However, not having the required resources to cover the minimum food basket remains a challenge for at least 53 percent of households, a reduction from 67 percent recorded in December 2020. Camp variations in this regard are stark with Kigeme, Kiziba and Mugombwa camps hosting most households lacking the economic capacity to afford their minimum food needs, let alone their food and nonfood needs. While almost half of male headed households (48 percent) are unable to afford their minimum food needs using their own resources, a significantly larger share of female headed households lack this economic capacity (59 percent).

Livelihood sources were accessible to a larger share of households in September 2021 with 49 percent engaged in income generating activities. Casual labour – the most common livelihood source – provides an income for 27 percent of households in September 2021 compared to 16 percent in December 2020. Seasonal factors common to this time of the year – including greater labour demand in the agricultural sector – as well as the recent ease in COVID-19 restrictions may have contributed to greater availability of livelihood sources at the time of the survey.
Challenges that prevent households from pursuing their livelihoods predominately include the lack of capital and lack of employment opportunities. Despite a small percentage increase in households adopting emergency coping identified (4 percent), the overall trend is positive: there has been a decrease in households adopting livelihood coping from 56 percent of households in December to 50 percent in September 2021, as well as a substantive decrease (14 percent) in the share of households adopting crisis coping.
Dynamic livelihood resilience of refugee households calls for further monitoring to better understand its correlation with assistance.

A number of systemic, as well as new challenges – such as the impact of COVID-19 pandemic - remain and prevent refugee households from graduating from food assistance and becoming self-reliant.
The environment in which they live in is highly resourceconstrained, characterized by chronic poverty, lack of infrastructure, restricted income opportunities, lack of access to land, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic has further stretched refugees’ already fragile resilience levels.

Among households receiving targeted food assistance, the inclusion errors appear to have increased slightly between May 2021 and September 2021, while exclusion errors were found to have decreased. The increase in the inclusion error is in part caused by the integration of protection-related criteria in addition to statistically tested, vulnerability-based eligibility criteria. Also, JPDM results indicate that wrongly included refugee households are more likely to have livelihood characteristics that correspond to heightened resilience levels. Further systematic work needs to be conducted to identify verifiable household characteristics in this regard in order to address the inclusion errors.

The refugee population is not sufficiently informed about the targeting approach, the eligibility criteria and assistance packages. Merely 16 percent of households declared to know how the eligible households had been chosen and could explain it. Around 64 percent of households reported not having been informed about the assistance package they received. Camp variations are stark in this regard with households residing in Gihembe (56 percent), Mugombwa (56 percent) and Nyabiheke (52 percent) particularly lacking essential knowledge about the newly implemented targeting approach.