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Rwanda, UN launch joint drive to help refugees become self-reliant

The Rwandan government and the UN’s refugee agency announced a new joint strategy on Monday geared to help refugees live productive lives despite their status.

The 2016-2020 strategy seeks to ensure that all refugees and neighbouring communities are afforded ways to become self-reliant and able to contribute to the economic development of the host nation.

Speaking at the launch, Jacob Oster, livelihoods officer at UNHCR, said the strategy would make refugee camps vibrant socially and economically with active markets, shops, restaurants, and cottage factories run by refugees and host communities.

This would create jobs for host communities within and beyond the districts where refugee camps are situated, he said.

Rwanda is home to more than 150,000 refugees of various nationalities living in six camps spread across the country.

The move comes days after world leaders at the UN General Assembly made a similar proposal to support 21 million refugees as well as more than 40 million internally displaced people worldwide.

Under the project, Rwanda and the UNHCR would partner with private sector federation and individual companies to set up cottage industries for the production of goods and services required by refugees and host communities while offering jobs to people with marketable skills.

The overall aim is to wean refugees or host community members off humanitarian aid.

Seraphine Mukantabana, Rwanda’s minister of disaster management and refugee affairs, described the launch as timely and in line with her country’s commitment to receive refugees and make them as comfortable as possible.

The development supplements another program that enables refugees in Rwanda to acquire degrees from U.S. universities through Kepler University in Kigali.


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