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WFP and UNHCR roll out targeted food assistance to meet needs of the most vulnerable refugees in Rwanda

KIGALI – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, have started rolling out a new mechanism in Rwanda to prioritize general food assistance to the most vulnerable refugees.

“The funding shortfalls, which we were already facing due to the protracted nature of the refugee crisis in Rwanda, have been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR’s Representative to Rwanda. “To avoid these cuts affecting the most vulnerable refugees, we have established a targeting system that will allow us to prioritize extremely vulnerable refugees who depend entirely on humanitarian assistance and to ensure that their basis needs are met.”

“This is the right step at the right time when donors globally are under greater pressure than ever because of the impact of COVID-19 and growing demands,” said WFP Rwanda Representative and Country Director Edith Heines. “By targeting we prioritize funding to the refugees who are most in need of assistance while we work to mobilise more resources and find long-term solutions.”

This shift is in close collaboration with the Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA) and with technical support from the Joint UNHCR-WFP Programme Excellence and Targeting Hub.   This is the first country in Eastern Africa where WFP and UNHCR have jointly implemented targeting and prioritization of humanitarian assistance, with the support of the hub. 

UNHCR, together with the Rwanda authorities, is embarking on a stepped-up livelihoods and economic inclusion strategy that will increase refugee and host community resilience.

“We are confident that by investing in programmes that promote access to livelihoods and economic opportunities, education enrolment and access to land and financial services, part of the refugee population will be able to improve their livelihoods and support themselves.  With this, I believe development partners will come forward with additional resources to support programmes targeting refugees and host communities for more sustainable solutions,” added Fall.

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Note to editors

A joint assessment by UNHCR and WFP in December 2020 in all camps in Rwanda found that vulnerability levels remain high.

Eligibility criteria for targeting have been defined, in consultation with refugees, and refugees have been classified into three groups:

  1. refugees considered highly vulnerable and most in need who are eligible to receive a full ration of food assistance.
  2. moderately vulnerable refugees who are less vulnerable but still in need of food assistance and are eligible to receive 50 percent of a full ration.
  3. and refugees considered the least vulnerable who will no longer be eligible to receive food assistance.

Targeting only applies to food assistance. All refugees, including those in the least vulnerable group, will continue to receive other assistance from WFP and UNHCR, including cash for non-food items, access to education and health services, school meals and supplementary food assistance to treat and prevent malnutrition.

UNHCR and WFP will monitor implementation of the targeting mechanism to assess changes in refugees’ vulnerability and will adapt the approach as the situation evolves.

The size of the food assistance ration for refugees depends on the availability of funding. Should funding not permit full assistance, WFP gives priority to those in highest need.  Due to dire funding shortfalls for refugees in Rwanda, WFP had to reduce rations by 60 percent in March and April.   

In parallel with this exercise, the Government of Rwanda, UNHCR, WFP and other partners will strive to create more access to livelihoods for refugees to meet their own needs and progressively graduate out of assistance. The Government and UNHCR are finalizing a new joint strategy on the economic inclusion of refugees and host communities in line with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.

MINEMA, UNHCR and WFP have an appeal mechanism for refugees who feel their households were placed in the wrong group.  Refugees can call a hotline and their requests are reviewed on an individual household basis and decisions are taken based on their eligibility for assistance.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. We had three years to complete our work and then disband. In recognition of its work, UNHCR has won two Nobel Peace Prizes, in 1954 and 1981 and a Prince of Asturias Awards for International Cooperation in 1991. In 2020, we marked our 70th anniversary. During our lifetime, we have helped well over 50 million refugees to successfully restart their lives.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change.


Rwanda Partnerships Food Security Refugees and migration


Elise Villechalane, UNHCR/Kigali,
Mobile: +250 788 315 198,
Twitter: @RefugeesRwanda

Emily Fredenberg, WFP/Kigali,
Mobile: +250 789 451 347, Twitter: @EdithHeinesWFP

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi,
Mob. +254 707 722 104,, Twitter: @wfp_africa