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Rwanda Key Message Update: COVID-19 lockdown threatens poor urban household food security, January 2021

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Situation Report
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Key Messages

  • On January 18, 2021, in response to the rise of COVID-19 cases, Kigali city began a 15-day lockdown with permitted businesses operating from 4 am to 6 pm. All movements outside of homes to access essential services require an approved permit from the police. On January 21, approximately 3,000 households in Kigali started receiving 3 kg of beans and 4 kg of maize flour or rice per person per week. There are concerns that some households will struggle to access adequate food and income during the lockdown, but the government is confident that rations will reach the most vulnerable households.

  • Since December 21, 2020, the re-introduction of stricter COVID-19 restrictions is limiting food and income-earning opportunities, particularly for poor urban households. Civil servant salaries have been reduced by a third for six months, with civil service offices limited to 15 percent occupancy. The current national restrictions are also impacting local and cross-border trade, especially among small-scale traders. Households reliant on fishing from Lake Kivu have also been restricted access to the lake. Nationwide, the reduction in labor and income-earning opportunities is impacting household purchasing power, but Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to persist through January.

  • The ongoing beans and Irish potatoes harvest is increasing food availability across the country. In January, Irish potatoes prices are average, with a farm gate price of 220-230 RWF/kg and an urban consumer price of 300-350 RWF/kg. A kilogram of beans is being sold at 400-450 RWF compared to 900-1000 RWF during the October to December lean season. Along with the availability of bananas, sweet potatoes, and green maize, rural areas are relying on their own production, which is driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. Rural household food security is expected to remain stable with the upcoming dry maize harvest in February.

  • According to UNHCR, as of December 31, 2020, Rwanda hosted 144,662 refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Despite the logistical challenges facing the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees, 7,895 Burundian refugees were repatriated by the end of 2020, close to the set target of 8,000. An additional 271 Burundians refugees were repatriated on January 7, 2021. UNHCR is planning to support the repatriation of 40,000 Burundian refugees. In Rwanda, refugee camps have been identified as among COVID-19 hotspots and are under lockdown, impacting food and income access from outside of the camps. Most urban refugees are likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to sustained below-average income and household purchasing power.

  • According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages in December 2020 increased annually by 4.2 and 4 percent for urban and rural areas, respectively. The price increase was driven primarily by ‘meat,’ which increased by 10.5 percent nationally compared to 2019 following increased demand over the festive season and the inter-district travel restrictions limiting supply. However, compared with November 2020, the price of ‘food and non-alcoholic beverages’ in December 2020 decreased by 2.3 and 3.5 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively. Notably, the national cost of ‘vegetables’ decreased by 7.9 percent compared to November 2020, driven by the ongoing Season A harvest.