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The Effects of COVID-19 in the Kiziba refugee camp, Western Rwanda
Henry, GEM Graduate from Kepler Kiziba, Master of Science in Global Health Delivery, Graduate from University of Global Health Equity
The Kiziba refugee camp is home to more than 16,000 people, most of whom are Congolese who have fled the war in their country many years ago.
As the world is plagued by COVID-19, refugees across the globe are not at ease. Refugees generally have poor health compared to people in their home countries. So, COVID-19 came to worsen the problems they were having. These consequences have led to a decline in the lives of refugees in the Kiziba camp. Some of the consequences of COVID-19 in the camp include food shortages, lack of daily services and school closures.
COVID-19 and food shortages
Refugees from the Kiziba camp are supported by the assistance of money for rations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) through the World Food Program (WFP). The money is used to buy food brought by people from outside the camp, or refugees themselves can travel to market towns near the camp to shop. That is the daily routine. When the Rwandan government announced the lockdown of all activities within the country due to COVID-19, the Kiziba camp was also locked down. At this time no one was allowed to leave or enter the camp. This led to an increase in famine in the Kiziba camp and changed the way refugees used to live daily.
COVID-19 and refugees’ education
Kiziba Camp is one of the few refugee camps in the world with universities. Kepler is a partner of an American university, Southern New Hampshire University. During the lockdown, Kepler, like many other universities and schools in the country, suspended its operations. The only way to carry on with studies, was for students to continue their studies from home through the appropriate online channels. This requires adequate infrastructure. In the camp, there was not enough infrastructure that was supposed to help the students learning from home. Although Kepler provided computers for students to use at home, the barriers persisted, such as electricity and internet access. On the other hand, other refugee students are studying in high schools, colleges and universities outside the camp across the country. When schools were suspended nationwide under COVID-19 lockdown, students returned to the camp, but because the infrastructure was not enough, they were not able to continue their studies.
COVID-19 and daily services
Similarly, refugees from Kiziba camp are provided with daily services by UNHCR and its partners, including medical services, construction, water and more. During the lockdown, the staff at the Kiziba camp moved their work home. With this new model of work, it is difficult for refugees because there is no way for them to apply for and receive services online. This has slowed down daily services.
COVID-19 should be a lesson for organizations working in refugee camps to prepare for emergencies that could happen in the future. Disaster preparedness would enable organizations operating in refugee settings to continue to assist refugees in providing various services, even in the event of an outbreak.