The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, have started rolling out a new mechanism in Rwanda to prioritise general food assistance to the most vulnerable refugees.
Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR's Representative to Rwanda said the organisation has funding shortfalls due to the protracted nature of the refugee crisis in Rwanda.
He added that these shortfalls have been further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
"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," he said.
Under the new mechanism, eligibility criteria for targeted food assistance has been defined in consultation with refugees, and here, refugees have been classified into three groups.
The first group comprises those considered highly vulnerable and most in need. These are eligible to receive a full ration of food assistance.
The second group is made up of moderately vulnerable refugees. These are eligible to receive 50 per cent of a full ration of food assistance.
The third group is of those refugees considered the least vulnerable. These will no longer be eligible to receive food assistance.
Edith Heines, WFP Rwanda Representative and Country Director said the new mechanism 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.
"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," she said.
"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," read a joint statement from UNHCR and WFP.
This targeting mechanisms 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," read the statement from the two organisations.
An assessment by UNHCR and WFP in December 2020 in all camps in Rwanda found that vulnerability levels remain high, in regard to food.
The new changes have been established in close collaboration with the Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA) and with technical support from the Joint UNHCR-WFP Programme Excellence and Targeting Hub, according to WFP and UNHCR.
Rwanda 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.
"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," said Fall.
Meanwhile, 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," read a statement from UNHCR and WFP.