Nicknamed the “Land of a Thousand Hills” for its many green and grassy hills, Rwanda is a landlocked, East African country with a population of 12.5 million people.
Rwanda is well-known for genocide in 1994 that killed as many as 800,000 people in the course of three months. Eventually, this tragic event caused extreme poverty and forced the country to start over from scratch since 70 percent of the population decreased. Although this was and is still a major setback for the country, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Rwanda will give you an idea of the hardships and improvements Rwanda faces daily.
Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Rwanda
- Rwanda is one of the most rural countries in the entire world. According to Land Links, 75 percent of Rwanda’s land is agricultural. This explains why the majority of the people live in houses that are surrounded by banana groves and large areas of land.
- Clearly, the agricultural sector is significant in Rwanda; thus, agriculture accounts for 80 percent of employment. Agriculture work is divided between the men and women; men do the heavy field work and care for the livestock while the women take care of the day-to-day farming activities such as planting and weeding. This goes for housework as well; men do the construction and heavy work while the women’s responsibilities are to maintain the household and raise the children.
- The food staples in Rwanda include bananas, beans, white and sweet potatoes, cassava and corn, which are all grown in the surrounding fields. Only those who can afford to buy meat will eat it.
- Although Rwanda has made a significant improvement in the number of people living below the poverty line, there is still a lot of room for progress. Specifically, The World Economic Forum states that in 2005, 57 percent of people lived below the general poverty line; however, that amount reduced to 45 percent in 2010. Regardless, 63 percent of the population still live in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 a day
- Living conditions in Rwanda vary tremendously depending on social class and location. Wealthy Rwandans may live in brick houses with full access to living essentials and necessities such as electricity, running water, plumbing and phone service. On the other hand, poorer people living in the rural areas live in small houses with mud walls and little to no access to many living essentials and necessities.
- In Rwanda, 25 percent of the population lack access to safe drinking water, and 26 percent of the population lack access to proper sanitation facilities. In order for families to have water, women and girls, the primary water carriers of the family, have to retrieve water from the local streams, which put them at risk for waterborne diseases. UNICEF has been working with the government in Rwanda to improve access to water and sanitation as well as improve hygiene in order to reduce disease and deaths related to water and sanitation.
- Unfortunately, 90 percent of Rwandans are at risk for malaria, a potentially fatal disease caused by infected mosquitoes. Malaria is the primary cause of death in Rwanda. In 2006, malaria caused 41 percent of hospital deaths, of which 42 percent of were children under the age of five.
- Most Rwandans buy their clothes from used clothing stores; however, some wealthy Rwandans can afford to buy new clothing made in Rwanda. The typical dressing style is typically semi-formal or business wear. Women usually wear long dresses and skirts that go past the knee with a nice fitted shirt and sandals while men wear dress pants with a dress shirt and tie. A lot of clothing in Rwanda consists of bright colors and patterns. Dressing down or casual can be considered disrespectful in Rwanda.
- Access to education in Rwanda is better than in most countries in Africa. The government provides everyone in Rwanda with free education for nine years; six years in primary school and three years in secondary school; however, after nine years, schooling comes with fees. Despite free education for nine years, InterNations reported that most children do not finish the required schooling and spend an average of only 3.3 years in school. Part of this is due to the fees for uniforms and supplies that still come with “free” education.
- Fortunately, besides free access to education, Rwanda also provides universal healthcare and operates one of the highest-quality health systems in Africa. Addressing the topic of health in Rwanda has resulted in major accomplishments such as reducing the mortality rate for children from 182 per 1,000 children to 52. Furthermore, due to access to vaccinations and improved healthcare, the life expectancy rate has doubled in the last 20 years.
These top 10 facts about living conditions in Rwanda highlight that the country has still managed to achieve success through its healthcare and educational system, proving that change requires more humanitarian aid and government contribution. Although there is still a good deal of work to be done to alleviate poverty in Rwanda, the country has come a long way to overcome the shadows of its past.
– Kristen Uedoi