Innovative and localized response to humanitarian needs of refugees and host communities in Rwanda

Improve the psycho-social well-being of refugees, from Burundi and the DRC, in the targeted areas and their coexistence with the host communities.
Protection Capacity

Innovative and localized response to humanitarian needs of refugees and host communities in Rwanda

Improve the psycho-social well-being of refugees, from Burundi and the DRC, in the targeted areas and their coexistence with the host communities.

The project in brief

Implemented by

  • Belgium
  • Belgian Red Cross 
  • Humanity & Inclusion




The project started on November 2018. The project is still ongoing, and will be completed on 30 April 2020.


 Improve the psycho-social well-being of refugees, from Burundi and the DRC, in the targeted areas and their co-existence with the host communities.

Project aims 

The overall objective of the project is to strengthen the response to the refugee crisis in Rwanda, while its specific objective is to improve the psycho-social well-being of refugees in targeted areas and their co-existence with host communities. The project will benefit the entire population of the Mahama and Nyabiheke camps, as well as the Rwandan host communities, in particular through the general improvement of health and protection conditions in the camps, social cohesion with the host communities, the inclusion of people with disabilities or with specific needs, gender mainstreaming and environmental protection.

Resources used 

The Rwandese Red Cross (RRC) and HI have a strong presence in the country, are involved in many forums, and collaborate effectively with the UNHCR, resulting in certain flexibility for the RRC and HI on the ground. Indeed, the RRC was already well-known through its activities of restoring family links in Rwanda, which increased the public's trust in the organisation and HI was already operating in the refugee camps and consolidated collaborations with main actors inside the camps. The enabling environment provided by the government of Rwanda also facilitates the implementation of the project. The RRC and HI fulfill complementary roles, from a community and management perspective. The special agreement with the local authorities facilitates Red Cross activities in Rwanda (RRC being auxiliary of public authorities). The fact that all volunteers come from the local communities constitutes another aspect that facilitates the implementation of the project.


  • A consortium has been formed between the Belgian Red Cross, Rwanda Red Cross (RRC), and Humanity and Inclusion (HI).
  • MINEMA (local authorities)
  • GIZ

Challenges and how they were overcome


  • Although the population in the camps is constantly increasing (due to births in the camps), funds are decreasing. Furthermore, a large part of the population is not targeted by specific projects. The assistance distributed in the camps doesn’t meet all of the existing needs, therefore refugees lack support in developing livelihood activities in order to complement the received assistance. Another major problem resides in land availability and accessibility in Rwanda, which is crucial because it restricts the possibility to grow and produce vegetables. There are a lot of women in the camps. In order to cultivate the lands properly, they must own them which is currently not allowed due to their refugee status. Access to land would allow them to sustain themselves but also to sell some of the resulting commodities.
  • The humanitarian crisis in Rwanda is chronic, one of the camps having opened already 15 years ago, and issues related to the chronicity of the crisis are therefore to be expected. Some new issues related to neighbouring countries may arise in the near future, such as, for example, the elections that will take place in Burundi next year or the unstable situation in North and South Kivu.

How they were overcome

  • In order to overcome these challenges, the RRC is trying to maximize the impact of its actions on the ground.
  • Furthermore, advocacy activities in favour of refugees are taking place with local authorities (concerning matters such as driving licenses, health insurance, etc.).

Results of the Good Practice 

  • Immediate health and protection risks for refugees and host communities are reduced.
  • Targeted refugees and host community members improve personal and interpersonal well-being.
  • Persons with disabilities, elderly persons, and persons with mental health issues have an improved access to focused and specialized health and social services

How the project meets the GCR Objectives

The activities of this project contribute to two GCR objectives. 

Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries

The project has for objective to ease pressures on host communities by providing refugees with basic services but also making sure that refugees and host communities have access to livelihood and income-generating activities. In addition, sport and leisure activities are taking place, involving host communities and refugees. These activities reduce the marginalization of refugees and improve existing relationships between host communities and refugees. These activities are very popular and a demand exists for their expansion, with the view of including, for example, other villages and camps. These activities are indeed highly appreciated by refugees themselves, UNHCR, and the government.

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

The project has for objective to enhance refugee self-reliance in that young people are encouraged to study and enhance their skills in order to find a job later. A centre of activity and interaction for young people was created where they can express their creativity, via the Internet or games, etc. (ex. IDEA box, in collaboration with Bibliothèque sans frontiers, is a portable multimedia toolkit requiring minimal energy needs and has its own power source). Hygiene kits are being distributed for women across the camps, it represents a major challenge as their number is still insufficient. Moreover, an ambulance has been made available to women about to give birth as they were previously relying on bikes or motorcycles in order to reach the doctor. In phase 1, livelihood activities have been developed: kitchen garden, cash assistance, distribution of cows, etc. 

The approach of this project is original as the needs of both refugees and host communities are simultaneously addressed. The fact that the volunteers are members from the local community has enabled this approach. The volunteers are well trained and constitute a very cost-effective resource. In addition, the collaboration between different partners has allowed to effectively draw on their respective comparative advantage to provide the best possible service.-

Next steps 

The end of the project is planned for April 2020 and there is a willingness of the consortium to keep the project going depending on available funds.


Submitted by: 

Alice Kabongo, Humanitarian Aid Officer