Mental Health in Rwanda Rwanda is a small country in sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda has struggled to become a stable country economically and politically since it became independent in 1962. As a developing country, Rwanda is still trying to develop its healthcare system. With years of conflict and instability, people especially struggle with mental health in Rwanda.

5 Facts About Mental Health in Rwanda

  1. The Rwandan Genocide plays a significant role. Roughly 25% of Rwandan citizens struggle with PTSD and one in six people suffer from depression. The reason why so many Rwandans have mental health conditions can be explained by one key event in Rwandan history. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. The mass genocide caused severe trauma to survivors who still suffer from mental health issues 26 years after the event.
  2. Rwanda has very few resources. According to the World Health Organization, Rwanda has only two mental health hospitals, zero child psychiatrists, and only 0.06 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. With a large amount of the population plagued by mental health issues, Rwanda needs more resources to help the mentally ill.
  3. Suicide rates have greatly decreased in Rwanda. In 2016, the suicide rate in Rwanda was 11 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a great improvement compared to the 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people in 2000. An increase in mental health resources contributes to the lowering of the suicide rate in Rwanda.
  4. Increased mental health funding is essential. The average mental health expenditure per person in Rwanda is 84.08 Rwandan francs. Most citizens of Rwanda do not have the financial resources to afford mental healthcare. The government currently uses 10% of its healthcare budget on mental health services. Considering how large the mental health crisis is, the government should increase its expenditure to address the crisis. Since citizens cannot afford to pay for mental health resources, the government will need to help provide more free or affordable resources.
  5. The Rwandan Government is updating policies to address mental health. In 2018, Rwanda’s updated strategic plan for its health sector set new targets for expanding mental health care services. Its purpose is to help increase access to mental health resources by decentralizing mental health and integrating it into primary care. Also, this plan calls for a decrease in the cost of mental healthcare and an increase in the quality of care. The plan hopes to accomplish strategic goals by 2024. If successful, this plan may be used as a method to help other countries establish a quality mental health plan.

The Road Ahead for Rwanda

Considering Rwanda’s violent history, it is no surprise that the population struggles with mental health. Over the years, progress has been made with regard to mental health in Rwanda. However, many more resources are needed to help address the mental health crisis in Rwanda. With Rwanda’s updated strategic plan to address the issue and an increase in expenditure, the well-being of Rwandan’s will be positively impacted.

Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr


Life Expectancy in RwandaAs life expectancy in Rwanda has doubled in the past 20 years, the efforts that helped to achieve this goal are closely tied with efforts to combat poverty. If people are sick but cannot access healthcare, they cannot contribute to the economy. Conversely, if people are living in poverty, they often cannot afford to access healthcare. Ending poverty and providing medical care are closely tied, and Rwanda has made excellent progress on both fronts.

Life Expectancy in Rwanda

In the early 1990s, Rwanda was the site of a 100-day genocide, during which a million Tutsis and Hutus were killed. The genocide decimated the country, destroyed infrastructure and cast millions into poverty. Life expectancy in Rwanda reached a low of 26.2 years in 1993 at the height of the genocide, but by 2018, it had risen to 68.7 years. Furthermore, life expectancy is projected to increase to 71.4 years by 2032.

Many factors have contributed to the dramatic increase in life expectancy and overall social welfare. The Rwandan constitution secured citizens’ right to health in 2003. Accordingly, the government has invested in healthcare systems including primary healthcare systems, HIV/AIDS healthcare systems, oncology services, community-based health insurance and medical education. A dramatic increase in vaccination rates has been crucial in improving Rwandans’ health. After the genocide, fewer than 25% of children had been vaccinated against measles and polio, but today, 97% of Rwandan infants have received vaccinations against 10 diseases.

There have also been declines in deaths from tuberculosis and malaria. There has been a similar decline in maternal and child mortality: after the genocide, Rwanda had the world’s highest rate of child mortality, but today, Rwanda has caught up with the global average. Furthermore, the HIV/AIDS case and death rates have decreased. In 1996, antiretroviral therapy became available, and in the last 10 years, Rwanda’s death rate from AIDS fell faster than it did in the U.S. and Western Europe.

External investment and an increase in foreign aid have also improved Rwandans’ health. In 1995, Rwanda received only $0.50 per person for health, less than any other country in Africa. NGOs like Partners In Health (PIH) have helped increase the population’s access to healthcare and have supported efforts to rebuild public and community health systems.

Poverty in Rwanda

The percentage of people living in poverty declined by 5.8%, from 44.9% to 39.1%, between 2011 and 2014 alone. Factors contributing to the decrease in poverty include:

  • The improved health of the people of Rwanda. Strong healthcare systems can work to combat poverty, because when people are in good health and can access medical care, they are able to work and be more economically productive.
  • The government’s Vision 2020 anti-poverty objective, which fosters privatization and liberalization with the goal of promoting economic growth.
  • A thriving banking system.
  • The expansion of the service sector.
  • Entry into the East African Community, an economic bloc whose other members are Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi.

Poverty and Life Expectancy in Rwanda

There is a substantial intersection between Rwanda’s efforts to increase its citizens’ life expectancy and its efforts to pull them out of poverty. The efforts to ameliorate both problems of poverty and life expectancy in Rwanda are linked through public health, and each is improving because the other is. In the words of one public health expert, Rwanda demonstrates that “a nation’s most precious resource is its people.”

Isabelle Breier
Photo: Wikimedia

Gender Equality in RwandaThis year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. In 1994, from April 7 to July 24, approximately 800,000 Rwandans were massacred and up to 500,000 women were raped. However, 24 years later, Rwanda ranks sixth in the world for gender equality, the top non-European country besides Nicaragua.

Women and Politics

Representation of women in politics significantly helped improve gender equality in Rwanda. Since 2003, women have had a constitutionally protected place in the Rwandan government. The Rwandan constitution mandates 30 percent of representatives be female. As a result, the number of women in parliament increased from 18 percent in the 1990s to 64 percent as of 2013. In terms of a male-female ratio in parliament, Rwanda tops international rankings. Furthermore, President Paul Kagame’s current cabinet is the second in Africa to contain an equal ratio of men to women.

While better representation does not end all gender inequality, it improves women’s status in society. With female representation, society sees women as leaders. And more importantly, female representation helps create better legislation for women and encourages gender equality in Rwanda.

Women and Development

Rwanda is a largely rural country and depends on agriculture for economic growth. Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product per capita ranks 206th in the world. However, Rwanda possesses a remarkable current GDP per capita given its recent history. Rwanda lost much of its traditional workforce to genocide, also resulting in 500,000 orphaned children. Since then, women have pioneered Rwanda’s development. The country possesses the highest rate of female labor force participation in the workforce compared to the rest of the African continent. Additionally, over 70 percent of women are engaged in a sector of the primary economy, and they make up 79 percent of the agricultural workforce, though not all are paid.

Consequently, women in development programs bolster gender equality in Rwanda, as they spearhead the country’s fast growth. Rwanda is currently hosting a wide range of development projects. These projects aim to both modernize the business of agriculture and ensure women are prepared for this modernization. Launched in 2015, the Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems program is being piloted in eight countries worldwide. This program aims to equip communities with the technological and soft skills necessary to navigate modern markets.

Mukamusoni Alexia, a cassava farmer, is one of 106 members in the newly formed ‘Ubumwe Mbuye’ Cooperative. According to Alexia, the cooperative facilitates a dialogue addressing local challenges and enabled her processing plant to acquire loans. Now, Alexia’s cooperative generates over 800 tons of cassava a month and provides 30 tons per week to a processing plant.

Many of these farming cooperatives are female-led or reserved for women, a long-term project to redefine gender roles and allow women to bring home family income.

Women and Education

Educating women is the key to gender equality. However, Rwanda’s education system struggles from a lack of resources. As a result, fewer students continue to secondary education. Moreover, Rwanda ranks low on the United Nations’ Development Programme’s Life Course Gender-Gap index.

Several of the most successful education projects focus on reducing gender-based violence. In doing so, empowered women can succeed at home and will, therefore, stay in school. A troubling statistic reflects 34.4 percent of Rwandan women experience violence from an intimate partner.

CARE International supports a program called Safe School For Girls. This program mentors girls as they transition from lower to upper secondary school. Plus, it provides sexual health education to more than 47,000 students across the Southern Province of Rwanda. Furthermore, this program hopes to engage boys in the dialogue through “round table talks.” These talks discuss the barriers women and girls face and how boys can help end gender-based violence. So far, Safe School For Girls has engaged over 19,000 boys in these talks. Improving the climate around education and identifying where women face barriers is critical for gender equality in Rwanda.

A Model for Gender Equality

While women still face a variety of obstacles, Rwanda acts as a model for gender equality worldwide. Rwanda’s Human Development Rank is still low. Subsequently, many argue gender equality in parliament is a smokescreen for President Kagame’s authoritarian regime, now entering its 19th successive year.

However, in spite of these developmental barriers, Rwanda has demonstrated gender equality is a realistic and attainable goal. The country’s real GDP growth stands at 8.6 percent, the second highest globally, showing full integration of women in society is critical for economic development. Rwandan women helped the country’s remarkable rebirth after a devastating genocide, and they are the main drivers behind its emerging prosperity today.

Holly Barsham
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Genocide of the Punic PeopleGenocide is a term that defines deliberate violence against national, ethnical, racial or religious groups with the intent to eradicate the entire population. This term did not come into use until after WWII; however, it is possible to trace the earliest recorded genocide to 149 B.C. in the Punic Wars. Three Punic Wars were fought over almost a century between Rome and Carthage that resulted in the complete destruction of Carthage and the genocide of its people, known now as the genocide of the Punic people.

Below are 10 little-known facts about the genocide of the Punic people:

  1. The Punic Wars are thought to be the first-ever recorded genocide.
  2. The Punic Wars first began because of a conflict of territory and the expansion of Rome into Carthage; however, after the First Punic War, the conflict was more deep-rooted for Rome in their hatred of the Punic people.
  3. Marcus Porcius Cato, member of the Roman Senate, believed that Rome was superior to Carthage and he concluded each of his speeches with three hateful words, “Delenda est Carthaago,” which means, “Carthage must be destroyed.”
  4. Carthage was the dominant power at the start of the First Punic War. Rome quickly rose above Carthage, destabilizing it, seizing its territory and its people.
  5. The Third Punic War was extremely controversial. As a result of the First and Second Punic Wars, Carthage was virtually powerless. Yet, because of the efforts of Cato and other Roman Senators to persuade Romans that Carthage “must be destroyed,” the Romans began to initiate the Third Punic War.
  6. Rome demanded Carthaginians as hostages, among other difficult conditions. Carthage fulfilled all of the demands. Still, Rome ordered even further unreasonable demands.
  7. When Carthage refused to destroy its own city and rebuild elsewhere, the Roman Republic set fire to all of Carthage, devastating the city and killing many remaining Carthaginians. The flames took 17 days to die out.
  8. The very few surviving Carthaginians were sold into slavery.
  9. The Romans also destroyed five allied African cities of Punic culture. This speaks to the very nature of the genocide. It is clear that the Punic people were deliberately targeted with the intent to eradicate them.
  10. The remains of ancient Carthage are few. Some Punic cemeteries, shrines and fortifications have been discovered, but a majority of the ruins that remain in the area were rebuilt in the Roman period after Carthage’s destruction.

There are several aspects of the genocide of the Punic people that differ greatly from modern genocide. There are also aspects of the tragedy that resemble the thinking in the Holocaust and other genocides such as in Cambodia and Rwanda. In all of these instances, leaders were preoccupied with militaristic expansionism, the idealization of cultivation, notions of social hierarchy and racial or cultural prejudices.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to Rwanda

We often hear stories about humanitarian aid that highlight waste, corruption and inefficiency. An example is in the wake of the horrific genocide in Rwanda in 1994 when the international community was too slow to react. There are important lessons to be learned from this failure and how to prevent similar atrocities in the future of delivering humanitarian aid to Rwanda.

However, there are also many success stories of aid being delivered effectively, saving lives and changing communities for the better. Despite the tragedy, there have been many positive steps taken to improve humanitarian aid delivery.


Humanitarian Aid to Rwanda Success Stories:

  1. The Clinton Foundation has been giving aid to farmers in Rwanda through the Clinton Development Initiative. During the 2016-2017 season, the foundation worked with over 35,000 farmers. The initiative focuses on increasing crop yields and income for farmers by providing them with the knowledge they need to meet their agricultural goals.
  2. The collaboration between the government and NGOs in Rwanda played a large part in Rwanda’s success in working towards the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Rwanda was one of the few countries to lead in the achievement of the MDGs. Progress was made to close the economic gender gap and free education was extended from 9 years to 12 years. Between 2000 and 2015, the infant mortality rate was cut in half and so was the number of people suffering from hunger.
  3. The USAID Mission in Rwanda began distributing humanitarian aid to Rwanda in 1964. Since that time the U.S. has given aid in many different areas including health, rural development, education and economic development. These funds have also helped develop democracy in Rwanda. The mission had to be halted in 1994 at the beginning of the genocide but was reopened several months later to provide emergency humanitarian aid. The transitional assistance in the wake of the conflict focused on food security as well as HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. A fully-functioning mission was then reopened in 1998 with a focus on post-conflict reconstruction.

Tackling problems like poverty, hunger and conflict is an enormous undertaking. These issues require complex solutions and coordinated global effects. The size and scope of these efforts can often lead to tragic inefficiencies and lost lives, as was the case with the humanitarian response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

There are also many stories in which humanitarian aid has helped save and improve lives. It is of paramount importance that we learn from the successes and failures of our efforts. The humanitarian aid to Rwanda is an example of both sides of this issue.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

Circassian genocideThe facts of the Circassian genocide haunt the region today. Following the 101-year-long war, led by the Russians against the Circassians in the Caucasus, the Russian army finally succeeded in subduing the region. The result of this incredible period of resistance, however, was the development, in the Circassian social consciousness, of an undeniable hatred for the foreign invaders who sought total control of their homeland.

It was for this reason that the Russian army commenced a campaign, now seen by most of the world as a genocide, to oust the Circassians from the conquered region. The Circassian Genocide of 1864 is now remembered all over the world as one of the most gruesome genocides of the 19th century. The campaign utilized tactics, such as deportation, resource deprivation and mass murder. The idea was simple, conquer the land – extinguish the people. Prior to the Genocide, the region had roughly 1 million residents – by the end, all but 80,000 were either forcefully expelled or murdered.

Top 10 Circassian Genocide Facts

  1. Who are the Circassians? Since the fifteenth century, Circassians have adopted Islam as their religion, though most were Christian prior to then. They are a group native to the Caucasus.
  1. How long did the Russian campaign in Caucasia take? The Russians fought to take control of the Caucasus from the mid-eighteenth century until 1864. The genocide was perpetrated between March 6 and May 21, 1864.
  1. How did the Circassians hold the Russians back for so many years? The Circassians, unwilling to bow to the authority of a Christian foreign power, united with the forces of Chechnya and Dagestan. This alliance allowed for years of successful resistance, but it could not be maintained forever against the Russian Empire.
  1. Who decided to utilize this method of expulsion to conquer the Caucasus region?Count Dmitri Milyutin decided, after assuming his new role as Alexander II’s Minister of War in 1861, to implement a strategy presented in 1854.
  1. How many Circassians were killed? According to Russian government accounts of their final campaign in the Caucasus, more than 400,000 Circassians were murdered.
  1. How many Circassians were displaced? 497,000 were forced to leave the empire.
  1. Where were they sent? They were sent into the Ottoman Empire. Unfortunately, many perished of starvation and/or from drowning in the Black Sea, after leaving from the Port of Sochi.
  1. How many Circassians survive today? The diaspora populations are biggest in Turkey and Syria. Worldwide there are roughly 1.5 million ethnic Circassians.
  1. How does Russia view 1864? Russia officially denies the campaign as being a genocide. However, many citizens do recognize their nation’s actions as extremely devastating for the Circassian population.
  1. How do Circassians remember this day in their history? Ethnic Circassians observe a day of remembrance for their murdered ancestors each year, on the 21st of May.

Today, these events are classified, internationally, as a genocide. In this case, the qualifier was that the actions taken by the Russian army had the clear intent of extinguishing the presence of Circassians from the region, so as to ensure little resistance to their rule. This explanation is in line with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’s definition.

Despite the international recognition of the nature of these events, the Russian government refuses to do the same. What’s more, they continue to exercise autonomous control over the affairs of the region and have since divided it into five administrative districts with little regard to the ethnic divisions in the area.

The government’s primary reason for not recognizing the Circassian genocide is, of course, political in nature. If the Russian government were to officially recognize the Circassian genocide, it would likely result in a push by Circassian diaspora communities to return to the land their forefathers were forced to flee from. This could result in a massive shift in demographics, and power, in the Caucasus.

– Katarina Schrag
Photo: Flickr

Why is Myanmar PoorLocated in Southeast Asia and bordering six other countries, Myanmar is slowly working to correct economic woes that have crippled the country for decades and have led many to ask “why is Myanmar poor?” Aside from widespread poverty, Myanmar is dealing with potential acts of genocide after 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. This comes at a time when the country has been rebuilding its reputation after holding its first democratic elections in 2010. Under the previous rule by a military junta, development assistance had been on the decline due to the “unfriendly business environment.” The country has since undergone major reforms, including a string of altering economic policies and revamping sustainable development, as well as holding government officials accountable for human rights abuses.

The fact remains that “more than one-fourth of the country’s 60 million people live in poverty.” Myanmar is deeply dependent on agricultural land, and its infrastructure, as well as human capital, are abysmal. However, some reports suggest a promising economy in the years to come. The Asian Development Bank stated that “Myanmar could follow Asia’s fast-growing economies and expand at 7 percent to 8 percent a year, become a middle-income nation, and triple per capita income by 2030.” With the U.S. easing sanctions in 2012 and an increase in foreign development investments from $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion, gradual refinements to shift Myanmar to a competing free-market economy have been the key to harnessing growth.

Recently, the Burmese government decided to heavily invest in food security and rural development to reduce the migration of young people to cities, which depletes the labor available in rural areas. According to the U.N., in 2030, approximately 60 percent of the world’s population will inhabit urban areas. In addition, a recent survey showed that “25.6 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line in Myanmar and most of them are farmers from rural areas.” For this reason, Vice President U Henry Van Thio provided solutions to these queries by offering examples of ways the government would aim to persuade people not to migrate. Some solutions included:

  • Creating more robust transportation and electricity service to villages and rural areas
  • Provide agricultural loans to farmers
  • Building all-season roads

He noted that some underlying factors which have contributed to a wave of people fleeing rural areas include job shortages, climate change, food insecurity and difficult financial situations. Additionally, he noted that there was a solution underway to respond to the infrastructure deficits that are hindering Myanmar’s development. He attested that “the Department of Rural Road Development has been established as a new department under the Ministry of Construction in order to hasten and streamline infrastructure projects.”

With no recent announcement concerning the “14,000 Rohingya who are at risk of dying from malnutrition in the refugee camps,” the Burmese government is in a serious predicament. Their main focus is on dealing with a humanitarian crisis and furthering their agenda domestically. With labor shortages being a concern in rural areas, the next steps by the Burmese government must be prudent, well-executed and permanent if they aim to answer to the grievances of their people. The goal to transition Myanmar to a developed country can come only at the cost of their own expenditures. The question of “why is Myanmar poor?” comes at a time when the focus has shifted to international compliance as well as eagerly enforcing policies at home that will benefit its people. Humanitarian assistance, as well as development initiatives, are in conjunction to see improvements that come at a most pressing time.

– Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr

Facts About the Ustase GenocideMost people know little about or have never heard of the Ustase – a Croatian, racist, Nazi-like movement formed in 1929 that ruled Croatia during World War II. Modeled after the Italian fascists, the Ustase sought to separate Croatia from Yugoslavia in order to attain Croatian independence and create a “pure” Croatian state, using genocide to rid the country of “impure” people. This dark period for Croatia resulted in the Ustase genocide.

Top 10 facts about the Ustase Genocide:

  1. The targets of the Ustase genocide were mainly Serbs, Jews and Gypsies. These groups were also the main targets of the German Nazi genocide (the Holocaust).
  2. Initially, the Ustase’s enacted race laws against the groups they saw as non-Croatian and who they felt threatened Croatian identity, much like how the Nazi’s established race rules against those who weren’t considered pure Germans.
  3. Additionally, like the German Nazis, the Ustase also established concentration camps to carry out their ethnic cleansing. The largest was Jasenovac where the Ustase murdered around 70,000 to 100,000 people.
  4. The Jewish population of Croatia was practically eliminated – almost all of the 40,000 Jews that resided in Croatia were murdered.
  5. It is estimated that about 30,000 Croatian Gypsies were murdered as well. The most number of deaths comes from the Serbs killed by the Ustase; it is estimated (on the low end) that 300,000 to 400,000 Serbs were murdered in the Ustase genocide. Some reports estimate that around 750,000 Serbians perished.
  6. The leader of the Ustase movement, Ante Pavelic, fled to South America after the end of World War II in 1945. He eventually moved to Spain and died in 1959 at the age of 70 and was never prosecuted for his crimes.
  7. The racism in Croatia did not end after the end of World War II, it continued into the later twentieth century with Serbs still being persecuted and even murdered as late as 1991.
  8. Even the United States was complicit in the continued racism in Croatia. The Assistant US Secretary of State who served as the American Ambassador to Germany during the beginning of the Yugoslav War, Richard Holbrooke, represented the US view that “The Serbs started this war.”
  9. Unlike the German concentration camps, which most often used gas chambers to murder the innocent people they targeted, the Ustase genocide was carried out through much more brutal means. Croatian Serbs, Jews, and Gypsies were cruelly beheaded, drowned and murdered in other barbaric and torturous ways.
  10. Even the German Nazis noticed the brutality of the Ustase. A Gestapo report to Heinrich Himmler from 1942 stated, “The Ustaše committed their deeds in a bestial manner not only against males of conscript age but especially against helpless old people, women and children.”

The shocking cruelty of the Ustase genocide has gone forgotten but should be remembered as an example of the senseless tragedy that occurs from allowing nationalism and racism to fester rather than rooting it out immediately.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr

 Rwanda RefugeesRwanda refugees will not be able to keep their refugee status on Dec. 31, 2017, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees declared. This was an agreement between Rwanda and refugee host countries. Refugees will either have to return to their home country or stay in their country of residence as permanent residents or official citizens. Here are 10 facts about Rwanda refugees to know before they are no longer considered refugees.

    1. The majority of Rwanda refugees became refugees during the 1994 genocide. Extremist Hutis killed about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over the span of about 100 days in April 1994. The genocide was sparked by a plane crash that killed Burundi President Cyprien Ntaymari. The majority Hutus and minority Tutsis had been in conflict since Rwanda’s founding.
    2. There were warning signs before the genocide. According to a March 1994 unclassified document from the Department of State, there were almost 300,000 Hutu refugees from Burundi, over 500,000 Tutsi refugees who were exiled from Rwanda and 350,000 Rwandans who were internally displaced due to the conflict between the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the government.
    3. The Rwandan government said that 3.4 million Rwandan refugees have returned home since 1994. More than 5,000 Rwandan refugees returned home in 2016.
    4. Rwandan refugees have fled to nearby countries such as Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda. Refugees have faced physical attacks in Zambia and forced deportations in Tanzania and Uganda.
    5. There have been many pop culture references to the Rwandan genocide. “Hotel Rwanda” is a 2004 film based on a true story about a hotel owner who housed thousands of Tutsi refugees. Kanye West controversially incorporated a Rwandan refugee camp theme into his Yeezy Season 3 show.
    6. Rwanda has been holding refugees from Burundi – 81,540 to be exact. The two countries accused one another of trying to destabilize each other’s governments.
    7. Between 100,000 and 250,000 women were raped or sexually assaulted during the genocide. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda “declared rape to be a war crime and crime against humanity” in 1994, according to the United Nations.

  1. The Rwandan government has tried almost two million genocide criminals through a process called Gacaca. This process involves allowing local community leaders to judge genocide criminals. They were organized to bring efficiency to Rwanda’s overcrowded court system after the genocide. It is debated whether this helps the communities stay involved, or allows non-professionals to serve justice.
  2. Refugees who return to Rwanda by the December deadline will receive compensation. Adults will receive a $250 resettlement package and children will receive a $150 resettlement package from the UNHCR and the Rwandan government.
  3. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency, has sought to help promote democracy and civic participation in Rwanda. They have done this through the Rwanda Threshold Program, which trained journalists, police officers, and other public officials from 2008-2011. The United States government has aided Rwanda in many other areas as well, such as healthcare, economics, and education.

These 10 facts about Rwanda refugees are important to remember as you consider 2017 being their last year to keep their refugee status. Rwandan refugees can reapply to get new refugee status in their host countries, but it is up to the host countries to decide whether to readmit them or not.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Education in Sudan
In December, the EU and UNICEF announced a one-million-euro bilateral agreement that will help to provide emergency education support to over 10,000 students who have been displaced by war. The goal is to improve education in Sudan by dispersing these funds to young people in refugee camps already receiving other forms of aid.

The Head of Office in Sudan for the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) states, “Giving children caught up in conflict and emergencies an opportunity to continue learning is as important as providing them with shelter, food, water, and vaccines. These children deserve that we invest in their future.”

Sudan has been plagued by conflict since 1956 when they gained their independence. There have been revolts against the government amongst all of the factions living across the country. The conflict increased in severity with the discovery of oil in 1999.

The civil war became more violent as both sides struggled to gain power in the region. Five years after the first barrels of oil were exported, a U.N. official reported that pro-government militias were carrying out systematic killings of non-Arab villagers in Darfur.

Within months, the atrocities in Darfur escalated to the point of being a genocide, reported U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the time. Estimated casualties reached 300,000 with far more displaced as refugees.

Despite these conflicts, education in Sudan reportedly persevered. Through the government in South Sudan – the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – enrollment in primary and secondary education actually increased.

In May 2015, UNICEF reported that 70 percent of schools in the conflict-affected areas saw a decrease of 400,000 students. But as they moved away from these dangerous areas and to more secure areas of the country, they re-enrolled in local schools.

This is not the first time that educational enrollment stayed the same or grew during the war. Between 1960 and 1965, enrollment increased in Sudan’s three southern provinces. Eventually, the war spread too close to the towns that housed a majority of the schools, causing people to evacuate. Even so, rural “bush schools” were established to accommodate the influx of students.

Fortunately, the SPLM government has made education a priority and has been enthusiastic about partnering with the international community to improve education in Sudan. The SPLM made a large investment in the rehabilitation and construction of schools across the region to build an infrastructure in which education in Sudan could thrive.

They also invested in teachers. Through the years of conflicts, the government rarely allocated funds toward teacher salaries. The SLPM was able to provide much-needed funds to incentivize the qualified teachers who chose to stay and teach.

Sudan has been surrounded by conflict for sixty years but has found ways to move forward. The UNICEF and EU are committed to improving the lives of Sudanese refugees. The young people of Sudan can be hopeful that this one-million-euro investment can be beneficial to providing further access to education in Sudan for those continuing to be displaced by war.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr