In Rwanda the median age of the population is just 20 years old and that is why at World Jewish Relief, we see youth leadership within the country as central to the successful fight against Covid-19.
With recent ‘Rapid Response’ funding awarded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, we are able to respond to immediate health-based issues, as well as secondary economic and social impacts of the pandemic.
During this six-month project in Eastern Rwanda, in rural Kayonza district, we will be working with local non-government organisation, SACCA, with whom we have partnered since 2007.
Since Rwanda’s national lockdown started in March, employment opportunities have been severely limited. Sadly, many young people have suffered from the secondary economic impact of the pandemic and, despite their skills and enormous potential, are facing unemployment.
Furthermore, the country has limited resources with which to address Covid-19. National government funding prioritises urgent healthcare and quarantine centres. In rural areas including Kayonza, where the charity’s projects are based, the pandemic worsens already precarious economic conditions, and its impact is felt harshly. There is a significant gap in solutions addressing the devastating economic impact of the pandemic, particularly in rural areas.
A network of 38 youth facilitators – predominantly SACCA graduates who have lost their jobs through the pandemic – have been recruited to work within the communities across the district.
Mitigating against the immediate effects of Covid-19, the youth facilitators will be improving the flow of information about preventative hygiene practices, and increasing access to clean water at the local, village level.
In a country where only 4.6% of the population actually has access to handwashing facilities, effective messaging can only go so far, so we have also installed handwashing stations at local health centres to address this shortage.
We are aiming to reach thousands of households with our messaging and believe that this localised approach will enable us to also address social and cultural challenges, and will ensure messaging does not increase stigma around reporting symptoms and seeking treatment.
Our youth facilitators will also help us to identify particularly vulnerable populations and subsequently respond to the secondary, economic effects of the pandemic on their lives.
This population includes informal workers who have lost their income during lockdown, families with disabilities, single mothers, and older people. The charity will be supporting these families by providing soap, handwashing stations and food, as well as cash transfers; a particularly dignified form of relief that enables families to choose how they spend funds. Crucially, their support means families will not have to engage in risky behaviour to sustain themselves and their families.
Eighty year old Esironi Kimana (pictured) has benefited enormously from the support of the project’s youth facilitators.
Esironi has lived a challenging life. His first wife died, and his second wife left him with a small child. He worked hard for years to support himself and his daughter. As she is now grown up and works away from home, lockdown has been very lonely for Esironi. This all changed when he was visited by youth facilitators, two kind and energetic young women who came to tell him about Covid-19 prevention. They identified Esironi as a vulnerable older person needing support, and he was immediately provided with a hand washing station, soap, a mask and 25kg of rice. The youth facilitators also spoke to local government to ensure he was entitled to government assistance in future. He now receives regular visits from them, which he welcomes. Thanks to their support, he no longer feels alone or forgotten.
World Jewish Relief in Rwanda
We have worked in Eastern Rwanda since 2000, in recognition of the shared history of genocide between the Jewish community and the Rwandan people. We have developed significant expertise in the area of employment for vulnerable young adults as well as strong relationships with our partners SACCA and UNM.
Earlier this year, we were awarded a half a million-pound grant from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (formerly DFID), in recognition of our expertise helping people get into work.
At World Jewish Relief, we are aware of the need to be highly adaptable and responsive to changing needs during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are grateful for the support of UK aid which enables us to help increase economic resilience in Eastern Rwanda through a localised, youth-led approach. We are also proud to work with credible partners like SACCA, whose expertise and local knowledge is invaluable. You can read about our global Covid-19 response in other regions here.
This project is funded by a UK Government challenge fund that supports civil society organisations to be a force for good in the world. This grant supports charities on preparedness, mitigation, and response to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and their response in Rwanda is one of 33 approved to be delivered in 16 countries.
UK aid supports civil society organisations (CSOs) working in UK government priority countries and the 50 lowest countries in the Human Development Index (HDI), where support for achieving the Global Goals is most needed.