Rwanda: Over 500 Refugees Evacuated From Landslide-Prone Gihembe Camp

20 September 2021

The government has relocated 538 refugees from Gihembe refugee camp in Gicumbi-which is considered to be a high-risk zone that is characterised by landslides during the rainy season.

The refugees from 139 families have been relocated to Mahama refugee camp in Kirehe District, which officials said is safe for their lives.

Goreth Murebwayire, the Gihembe Camp Manager, said the move aims at protecting the wellbeing of refugees and conserving the environment.

"We are entering the rainy season which might put the refugees into more danger," she said.

Although there has never been any case of loss of life, rampant cases of injuries stemming from people falling in ravine ditches were increasingly putting the lives of refugees at stake.

Formerly, Gihembe refugee camp was home to 12,314 refugees. Early this year, a total of 2,392 refugees were transferred to Mahama camp and 9,922 are expected to have been relocated by December ahead of the closure of Gihembe camp.

Refugees react

The refugees who are being relocated expressed mixed reactions.

Fabrice Nkurunziza, a 19-year-old refugee said that being born and raised in Gihembe camp made them feel comfortable but the risky environment was increasingly becoming worrying.

"We are looking forward to a new beginning," he said

On the other hand, his mother said that the change in weather conditions could be her biggest challenge.

However, she said that in terms of facilities and services, Mahama will be a better camp.

Boubacar Bamba, the Deputy Country Representative of United Nations Refugee Agency (UNCHR), said; "This is a very good step because the camp has been subjected to the environmental disaster as many ravines emerged with heavy rain in this area and put refugees' lives at risks."

He assured refuges of the usual support, saying that Mahama refugee camp is large enough to accommodate them.

"They are not moving out of humanitarian assistance. They will keep on getting the same support," he noted

Fabien Hakizimana, a former Gihembe refugee who was earlier moved to Mahama camp, told The New Times that they were happy to reunite with their families members.

Before entering the camp all the 538 refugees will be tested for covid-19.

As of August 31, Rwanda was host to 127,382 refugees spread across six camps and transit reception centres.

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