New waves of civilians fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] for Rwanda have added to the challenge of providing the tens of thousands of such refugees there with adequate food supplies.
"When looking at the current situation, there is a threat of hunger spread[ing] with the influx of fresh batches of Congolese refugees who arrived [in Rwanda] over recent weeks,” Abdoulaye Balde, UN World Food Programme (WFP) representative in Rwanda, told IRIN.
WFP has said it is facing logistical challenges and does not currently have adequate food rations to distribute to all refugees. The families each receive, according to WFP, 9kg of maize, 2.7kg of beans and another 30g of oil and 5g of salt per week. Expectant mothers and children get special rations which, WFP says, may vary from time to time.
WFP says it needs an estimated US$4 million to expand its food assistance to Congolese refugees.
“Just too little”
Thousands of refugees, many of them women and children, have flocked to Rwanda following renewed violent clashes between rebels and government forces in the eastern DRC province of North Kivu and especially around the town of Masisi. The Rwandan government estimates that in December 2012 alone, some 50 to 70 Congolese refugees arrived in the country daily.
Musagara, a 37-year-old father of four from Masisi, told IRIN that the weekly ration he receives is hardly enough for his family.
"Since we arrived at the camp, we have barely had enough to eat. I cannot afford to feed myself [and] my family. The food we receive is just too little," Musagara said.
According to the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugees Affairs, a census done between May and September 2012 revealed that there are an estimated 57,000 Congolese refugees in Rwanda. Some 20,000 of them arrived after fresh violence broke out in April 2012.
Many of the refugees are currently living in five camps in Rwanda, where they are receiving humanitarian aid.
Water also needed
The refugees have also called for adequate provision of water to the camps.
"It is unfortunate that some areas in these camps do not still meet these standards,” Safari, another Congolese refugee, told IRIN in the newly established camp of Kigeme, in Southern Province, which is home to most of the recent arrivals.
Antoine Ruvebana, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, told IRIN his government was doing all it could to ensure the refugees had their basic needs, including food and shelter, covered.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), all refugees who have registered in Rwanda since July 2012 are being provided with food, utensils and shelter. However, the agency notes that “the standard of 2,100 kcal per day is not always met due to temporary shortages of some food items”, and that “water supplies are variable”.