International Federation to provide emergency relief assistance for Rwandan returnees

Published: 17 October 2006

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is urgently appealing for 1.5 million Swiss francs (US$ 1.2m, euro 978 000) to assist the Rwandan Red Cross Society in meeting immediate and longer-term needs for 30,000 returnees who are being repatriated from Tanzania to Rwanda.

In May 2006, the Tanzanian government took the decision to repatriate a group of Rwandans who had been living in Tanzania, some of them since 1959, as well as those who left Rwanda during the genocide in 1994.

Thousands of people have been expelled so far from Tanzania, most of them without much notice, and most have had to leave their meager belongings behind, including livestock. Some of those people cannot trace their roots back home, do not always speak the local language (Kinyarwanda) and could be stigmatized upon their return. Though each returnee family has been given a three-month food kit and a small plot of land by the Rwandan government, the rapid return of so many people is a major challenge in itself in one of the world’s most densely populated country (345 inhabitants per km2).

Neighbouring Burundi is faced with a similar situation with thousands of people expelled from Tanzania returning “home” to a country many of them have never seen. The identified groups of Rwandans and Burundians were not registered as refugees in Tanzania.

Red Cross/Red Crescent action includes providing assistance to the returnees in transit camps, especially the Kiyanzi Transit Camp across from the Tanzanian border, currently holding more than 1,200 returnees from Tanzania. It is managed by the Rwandan Red Cross together with local authorities. Kitchens sets, blankets, jerry cans, soap and clothes will be provided, as well as new tents, warehouses, latrines, access to clear water and malaria drugs.

Returnees will also be assisted when they resettle in their former places of origin or on the new locations designated by the Rwanda local authorities. A total of 277 families will be supported on the Bukora and Kayanza resettlement sites. Through the appeal, these people will receive basic agricultural tools, household construction materials, help with the construction of latrines and the rehabilitation of wells.

The health situation will be monitored, also trying to cope with difficult living conditions (the Kayanza district resettlement site is situated 12 km away from the nearest water source while the closest hospital is 17 km away).

Rwandan Red Cross branches will monitor the integration of families, conduct social mobilization campaigns and provide psycho-social support when needed. The capacities of the Rwandan Red Cross will also be improved.

The International Federation is working closely in Rwanda with the Rwandan National Disaster Management Committee, all Red Cross and Red Crescent actors, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as all UN partners and other humanitarian organisations.