29 November 2017 – Mahama Refugee Camp – Kirehe District – UNICEF Rwanda, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) welcomed His Excellency Takayuki Miyashita, Ambassador of Japan to Rwanda to Mahama Camp for Burundian refugees. The ambassador was accompanied by a delegation from the Embassy of Japan in Rwanda, as well as the UNICEF team, as they toured the camp to observe various programme activities and infrastructure funded by the Government of Japan.
In February 2017, the Government of Japan committed US$ 636,000 to UNICEF for supporting various interventions for refugees, especially children in Mahama Camp. This support included expanding children’s access to protection, early childhood development and education services. Programmes have been implemented under the leadership of MIDIMAR in close coordination with UNHCR and partners.
The delegation began their visit at Paysannat L School, a local school located just outside the boundaries of the camp. Paysannat L educates both Rwandan and Burundian refugee children, who have been integrated into the national education system. The ambassador visited the new information and communication technology (ICT) room, equipped with new computers, photocopiers, printers and stationery. The ICT room, equipped with funding from the Government of Japan, supports teachers at Paysannat L to improve the quality of education and facilitate lesson planning for Rwandan and Burundian students. Funding from the Government of Japan also allowed UNICEF to support Paysannat L in installing two generators to ensure the functionality of the ICT room.
Greeted by the enthusiastic and talented Burundian traditional drummers, the ambassador then visited the newly upgraded child-friendly space, which has been improved with funds contributed by the Government of Japan. Child-friendly spaces are an essential part of the camp, as they provide structured opportunities for children to learn and play in a safe, friendly, and stimulating environment. Activities include art and music classes, life skills education on reproductive health and the prevention of violence, sports, and psychosocial support. Following a ribbon cutting to officially open the upgraded space, the ambassador visited each activity to observe its impact and interact with the children who play there.
H.E. Ambassador Miyashita and the delegation concluded the visit by interacting with community health workers, who articulated their role in promoting health and hygiene using “talking books.” These innovative electronics, procured with support from the Government of Japan, are pre-programmed with important health messages in Kirundi, which community health workers can use to reach larger numbers of refugees at a time. Refugee children also demonstrated good handwashing behaviour, which is promoted through murals and posters created with funding from the Government of Japan.
Speaking to refugees and partners gathered in Mahama, the ambassador thanked UNICEF for working hard and efficiently using the funds from the Government of Japan.
“It is my great honour and pleasure to visit Mahama Camp for the second time,” he continued, “and I am happy to see children enjoying themselves, to see Burundian and Rwandan children learning together, and that Mahama is such a safe and clean environment.”
Mr. Jean Claude Rwahama, Director of Refugee Affairs for MIDIMAR, thanked H.E. Ambassador Miyashita for his visit, and expressed his appreciation for the Government of Japan’s support in Rwanda since 2010. He also called upon refugees to maintain the facilities and equipment funded by the Government of Japan, and to work with the local community to uphold the programmes and activities which benefit their children.
Ted Maly, UNICEF Representative, expressed his sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Japan for their continued generosity. “Children in refugee situations are often deprived of their basic rights,” he continued. “Providing them protection, access to early learning, and education is our collective obligation.”
“I am happy that we have been able to work together,” concluded Ambassador Miyashita. “It gives me great pleasure that we have been able to make the refugees’ lives more convenient and comfortable.”