Above-average Season 2020 A production of maize, bananas, cassava, and sweet potatoes has improved food availability and access across the country. Average cumulative rainfall anticipated from February-May 2020 is expected to support an average Season 2020 B harvest in May-June. Given recent and anticipated crop production, household and market food stocks are likely to remain generally above average, which is expected to support Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes across most of the country through at least September 2020. An elevated risk of flooding and landslides exists in March and April, the rainiest months of the season. However, impacts are likely to be limited and localized.
According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) consumer price index for *food and non-alcoholic *beverages, food prices increased by 3.7 percent between January and February 2020. The sub-category of bread and cereals decreased by 1.1 percent during this time, likely driven by abundant maize production. However, the prices of vegetables (mainly non-cereal staples) increased by 7.2 percent, largely attributed to bean production shortfalls. Due to the continued closure of the Gatuna border post with Uganda, reduced overall import levels are putting upward pressure on prices, though imports from Tanzania have been filling some of the gap. Despite above-average production, maize prices are unlikely to continue decreasing as farmers in high-production areas of the Eastern Province have reportedly started withholding stocks until prices begin to increase again.
In response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Rwanda – reaching 70 confirmed cases as of March 30 – the government declared a national two-week lockdown beginning March 22. During this time, only essential services – including food markets – are operating. The lockdown is restricting income-earning, particularly in urban areas. In rural areas, food stocks from the Season 2020 A harvest are expected to support food access for many poor households, though income-earning is also expected to be restricted. So far, disruptions to trade and market supply have been minimal. However, key informants report that panic purchasing has led to some price increases in urban areas, prompting a government-mandated price freeze on essential goods. On March 28, 2020 the Government began a food relief support initiative for vulnerable households, particularly in Kigali City, and social safety net programs are being expanded in rural areas. Should COVID-19 or measures implemented to control the outbreak be extend beyond the current two weeks, and assistance levels not scale-up to match the anticipated loss in labor income, increases in the severity and magnitude of acute food insecurity would be possible.
At the end of February 2020, according to UNHCR Rwanda hosted a total 150,644 refugees and asylum seekers mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Between February 2019 and February 2020, Burundian refugees arrived at an average rate of approximately 250 per month. Meanwhile, the number of Congolese refugees in Rwanda has generally remained stable since mid-2019. Due to border closures in response to COVID-19, refugee arrivals have temporarily halted. Households affected by flooding since December 2019 – including in Kigali and localized areas in the northern, western, and southern provinces – continue to receive adequate food and non-food assistance from the government and partners. Flood-affected households and refugees currently in Rwanda are expected to continue receiving humanitarian assistance at current levels, supporting Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes through at least September 2020.