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Rwanda Key Message Update: Low seasonal rainfall in Eastern Province reduces food availability in rural areas, November 2021

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  • Low September-December rainfall in areas of the Eastern Province resulted in wilting of up to 50 percent of beans, maize, and other crops. Poor rainfall is expected to result in below-average localized season A harvests, leading to early depletion of food stocks that will affect food security for rural households. Current food prices in the province are increasing with bean prices at atypically high levels between 550 – 570 RWF/Kg. However, adequate rainfall elsewhere is supporting favorable on-going Irish potato harvests in the Northern Province and widespread vegetable harvests across the country are improving food availability and access in both rural and urban areas. High demand for weeding and fertilizer application is driving above-average incomes from agricultural labor, aiding households in purchasing food to supplement depleting stocks in rural areas. The exception is in Eastern Province where income from agricultural labor is below average due to rainfall deficit. Overall, the availability of Irish potatoes and vegetables from the current season harvest together with inter-seasonal crops such as bananas and supplies from other countries are maintaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes among rural households.

  • New daily COVID-19 cases averaged around 25 in November, a substantial reduction from over 2,000 daily cases in July 2021. The declining trend led to the government progressively lifting control measures put in place in July resulting in increased labor migration and business activities. Currently, there is a national curfew from midnight to 4:00am. Markets, hotels, restaurants, and public transport are operating at full capacity. The relaxation of restrictions contributed to increased income earning opportunities and improved trading especially in urban areas and along international borders. In addition, the on-going COVID-19 vaccination campaign has administered 8.08 million doses, with 22.1 percent of population fully immunized. The increased income earning opportunities together with improving cross-border trade is maintaining area-level Minimum (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in urban areas.

  • According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), the monthly ‘food and non-alcoholic beverages’ prices in October 2021 increased by 0.4 percent in urban areas but decreased in rural areas by 1.8 percent. Compared to October 2020 prices, October 2021 prices decreased by 2.1 and 14 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively. In rural areas, the overall monthly price decrease was driven by a 4.7 and 2.5 percent decrease in prices of ‘vegetables’, aided by a favorable Season A harvest, and non-alcoholic beverages. However, prices of other food items increased by between one and 7.6 percent in both rural and urban areas due to declining supply from rural areas at the start of the lean season and increased demand after the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. Nationally, the consumer price index decreased slightly by 0.1 percent compared to September 2021, primarily driven by decreased cost of ‘vegetables’ of 4.2 percent.

  • The UNHCR estimated 127,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Rwanda remain vulnerable and food insecure, relying almost entirely on food assistance from humanitarian agencies like WFP. However, due to a funding shortfall, WFP reduced the number of beneficiaries and food rations sizes. As of September 2021, WFP only provides food assistance in form of cash-based transfers of 3,500 and 7,000 RWF to households considered moderately and most vulnerable, respectively. The food ration to the most vulnerable is 92 percent of the food basket instead of the recommended 100 percent while among the moderately vulnerable, it represents 46 percent of the cost of the food basket instead of the recommended 50 percent. The ration is further affected by food price increases in areas near camps where, for instance, in September prices increased by five percent in September compared to August 2021, but the cash transfer remained the same. Generally, the reduction in food assistance and loss of income opportunities due to the impact of past COVID-19 restrictions continue to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among the refugees.