Cuts to United Nations aid for refugees living in Rwanda are threatening education for children from more than 100,000 families. The families fled conflict in several East African countries. They are spread among five refugee camps in Rwanda.
Burundian refugee Epimaque Nzohoraho spoke about the situation to the Associated Press. He said the leader of his son’s school reported that his child should not return to class because the UN refugee agency had stopped paying for the education.
Nzohoraho said he does not know how much it costs to attend the school. But, he said, he had hoped education would save his son’s future.
Last weekend, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, announced budget cuts for food, education, shelter and health care. The agency acted as hopes disappear to meet the $90.5 million in aid donations.
UNHCR spokesperson Lilly Carlisle said that only $33 million had arrived by October. “The agency cannot manage to meet the needs of the refugees,” she said.
Rwanda is home to a little more than 134,500 refugees. About 62 percent of them came from neighboring Congo. About 37 percent came from Burundi. Less than one percent are from other countries, says the country’s emergency management ministry.
Among those affected are 553 refugee schoolchildren who were expecting to go to boarding schools this year. The budget shortfall will not permit their attendance. The UNCHR is already supporting 750 students in boarding schools, Carlisle said. The school fees for boarding schools in Rwanda is $80 each school term.
Budget problems have also affected food assistance, which has dropped from $5 to $3 per refugee monthly since last year.
Chantal Mukabirori is a Burundian refugee living in eastern Rwanda’s Mahama camp. She says with reduced food aid, her four children are going hungry and refusing to go to school.
“Do you expect me to send children to school when I know there is no food?” she asked.
Carlisle is urging refugees to “to look for employment to support their families,” but some say this is hard to do as a refugee.
Solange Uwamahoro fled violence in Burundi in 2015 after an attempted government overthrow. She says going back to the same country where her husband was killed may be her only choice.
“I have no other option now. I could die of hunger … it’s very hard to get a job as a refugee,” Uwamahoro told the AP.
Phillipe Babinshuti is secretary of Rwanda’s emergency management ministry. He says the refugees in Rwanda should not be forgotten even with the increasing number of global conflicts.
The aid reduction effect on education is likely to lower school enrollment. Data from UNHCR in 2022 showed that 1.1 million of 2.2 million refugee children in the East, Horn of Africa and Great Lakes area were out of school.
I’m Dan Novak.