Rwanda’s casual workers complain over relief distribution under COVID-19 lockdown

APA - Kigali (Rwanda)

Upon learning about the local administrative entity’s relief distribution drive earlier this week, Fabien Vuguziga, a moto-taxi driver who has ceased work owing to the inevitable lockdown over COVID-19 outbreak in Rwanda rushed to the nearby Kimisagara sector, which is, located a few meters away from his home.

The father of four stood in line in the scorching midday heat for hours only to return empty-handed.

After long hours of waiting, Vuguziga was informed that he was not on the list of most vulnerable citizens who are qualified to benefit from this humanitarian relief.

“Local administrative officials had noted my name after the exercise to distribute relief was officially announced, but when I went to receive the relief material, the officials said my name was not on the list,” he said.

Like Vuguziga, several other casual workers living in several poor suburbs of Kigali city talked to had similar experiences at the distribution drive.

While Rwandans officials say that this category of population could not stay indoors on empty stomachs during the ongoing lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of the deadly Coronavirus epidemic, the Government of Rwanda on Saturday 28 March, started distributing essentials first to the most vulnerable citizens across the country, hours after President Kagame announced the support program in a televised state of the nation address.

The humanitarian relief is comprised of basic essentials including; maize flour, beans, cooking oil, rice, salt, and sugar and soap where rations are being issued based on the number of people in a household.

During the distribution of relief, workers at Sector level which is among the lowest administrative entities use weighing scales to ensure equal packages for every beneficiary.

With environmental protection as a major principle to adhere to, all essentials were packaged in paper envelopes before handing them to beneficiaries.

Through Ubudehe program all Rwandan households are categorized to ensure their economic status.

Rwanda’s total population is 12.3 million citizens.

According to the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs, categorization is composed of four levels.

Category One – there are 1.5 million Rwandans in the first category equivalent to 16% of the total population (these are people with no means to own or rent homes of their own and can hardly put food on the table).

For Category Two, there are 3.1 million people, accounting for 29.8% of the population (these have part time small jobs and either own cheap houses or are able to pay rent).

Category Three is composed of 5.8 million Rwandans (these are farmers, professionals, and business owners. They don’t need government for survival).

Category four is made up of the rich especially public servants from the level of Director General and over and large business owners.

The beneficiaries of this humanitarian relief allege the local representatives of fraud, of listing their kith and kin on the roster even though they were not affected by current situation, but Ignacienne Nyirarukundo, the state minister in charge of Social Affairs in the Ministry of Local Government and Social Affairs, has denied these allegations.

“We will investigate whether there have been shortcomings in the process of distributing relief,” said the senior Rwandan Government official.

According to her, none of the actual victims will be left out from receiving the material. Rwandan officials explained that the cities were prioritized because they have been the most affected by the lockdown.

The food relief is being drawn from the country’s National Strategic Grain Reserve under the ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources which is used in case of food shortage, it said.

In addition to this, many citizens countrywide have also willingly made their contributions to helping their vulnerable neighbours.


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