Rwanda is among the first countries on African continent to enforce a total lockdown, following the confirmation of its first case of COVID-19 on March 14, 2020. The lockdown was part of a series of measures nationwide to curb the spread of the virus. The poor and vulnerable,
including people with disabilities, were among the most affected by the measures. The government and partners intervened to provide food and other social security assistance.
In line with the Leaving no One Behind principle, in response to COVID-19, UNDP Rwanda in partnership with National Council for People with Disabilities (NCPD) has provided food assistance to 11 residential centres taking care of people with disabilities. Similarly, in partnership with th National Union of Disability Organisations in Rwanda (NUDOR) provided 1945 people with disabilities with food assistance and hygienic items to help them cope with negative effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Those centres are located across the country and include, AVEH Umurerwa(Bugesera District), Urugo rw’Amahoro Mukarange and Urugo rw’Amahoro Kabarondo(Kayonza District, Urugo rw’Amahoro Mutenderi(Ngoma District), HRD(Muhanga District), ADAR Tubahoze(Huye District), Centre Saint Francois d’Assise Kitabi(Nyamagabe District), Centre Saint Vincent de Paul(Musanze District), Alvera Centre(Nyamasheke District), Ineza Kabaya(Ngororero District) and Centre Inshuti Zacu(Kicukiro District).
The assistance has helped those centres to provide adequate and balanced meals to 196 children and adults who live in for approximately a period of six months. The persons who live in these centres, their families are unknown, or they live in remote areas.
A timely assistance
The assistance came as a timely relief because many of these centres were about to run out of stock and had appealed to the NCPD and other partners for support.
Cecile Umunyana is the Deputy Manager of Association des Volontaires pour Assistance aux Enfants Handicapes (AVEH Umurerwa). The centre takes care of 21 children with mental health disabilities who live in the centre and other 102 who stay in their families. It provides them with medical care and ensures they get healthy meals as a way of combatting malnutrition.
When the COVID-19 broke out and various measures were taken to contain its spread, Umunyana and her team of more than 10 staff member started to lose hope as they had been held back from mobilizing more funds and assistance from donors. The centre relies mainly on donors and partners to be able to function.
The food assistance re-ignited their hope of helping these children who have been, in most cases, rejected by their families and community. “If there is anything that made me happy in these difficult times of COVID-19 pandemic is the food assistance we got from UNDP through NCPD. Finding a balanced diet for our children was a huge challenge and I was unconceivably worried about their lives; but now I feel relieved and assured because we have at least what to feed them for six months.” Explained Umunyana.
Umunyana revealed that the centre is struggling to mobilize funds because its usual donors were affected by the pandemic, which led to the drastic reduction in funds and support.
She called on the government of Rwanda, national and international partners and donors to continue providing support to people with disabilities to ensure their rights are met, especially in these hard times of COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the manager of Inshuti Zacu, another centre located in Kicukiro District that benefited from the support, the assistance has strong meaning to 36 children that the centre shelters.
In a conversation with a UNDP delegation, Sister Emerita Nyirandayizeye of Inshuti z’Abakene Congregation said “This assistance goes beyond being just food; it represents hope to children. It means that there are people out there who think of them, who care about them and that is what they need most.”
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, UNDP has been working with the Government of Rwanda to provide support to people hard hit by the pandemic and will continue to work closely with various partners to implement a national recovery plan adopted recently by the government.