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Rwanda Key Message Update: Reinstated COVID-19 restrictions reducing incomes for poor urban households July 2021

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Key Messages

The third wave of COVID-19 infections is ongoing with daily infections rising from an average of 61 in May to a high of 2,773 cases as of 18 July 2021. The daily COVID-19 deaths equally increased from zero to two deaths in May to more than ten deaths in July. This trend compelled the government to reinstate stringent control measures including a total lockdown in Kigali city and eight districts, restricted inter-district movement, closure of learning institutions, restrictions of bars and restaurant to take-away services only, and a national curfew time from 6:00pm to 4:00am. These restrictions are gradually contributing to reduced income earning opportunities and declining household purchasing power due to reduced business hours and capacity as well as business closures, especially in urban areas. To minimize the impact of restrictions, the government rolled out a food relief program on 18 July distributing rice, maize, and beans to 211,000 vulnerable households in areas under lockdown. This, together with increased food availability from Season B harvests, will help to mitigate a deterioration of food security, maintaining area-level Minimum (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in urban areas though poor urban households are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. However, if restrictions are sustained for a longer period, food security could deteriorate among poor urban households.

The estimated average Season B harvest of maize, beans, and Irish potatoes has maintained food availability in rural areas and stabilized food prices across the country. In the Northern Province, bean prices declined from 400-600 RWF/kg pre-harvest to 300-350 RWF/kg in July. Similarly, maize prices declined from 350-400 RWF/kg pre-harvest to 250-300 RWF/kg currently. Overall, the availability of Irish potatoes, beans, maize, and other inter-season crops (sweet potato, cassava, and banana) are maintaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes among rural households. Land preparation for the next seasons C and A is on-going across the country, however, labor migration is likely to be constrained by restricted inter-district movements due to COVID-19.

According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), ‘food and non-alcoholic beverages’ prices in June 2021 increased monthly by 0.2 percent in rural areas but decreased in urban areas by 0.8 percent. In comparison to June 2020 prices, June 2021 prices decreased by 2.3 percent in rural areas but increased by 0.2 percent urban areas. In rural areas, the slight monthly price increase was driven by a 2.4 percent increase in ‘bread and cereals’ prices, due to increased cost of imported wheat. Nationally, the consumer price index was stable compared to May 2021, primarily driven by an overall 0.1 percent decrease in ‘food and non-alcoholic beverages’ prices due to increaseD food availability from Season B harvest. Decreased spending on transport (0.3 percent) and “Alcoholic beverages” (0.1 percent) attributable to COVID-19 restrictions have also contributed to the stability of consumer price index in the short term.

Food security of the estimated 124,626 refugees in Rwanda remains precarious primarily due to the 60 percent reduction of food assistance by WFP in March and subsequent change in targeting of beneficiaries in May to prioritize those categorized as most vulnerable. Though WFP has continued to receive donations, including US$5.3 million from USAID in late June, a shortfall remains. Currently, the most vulnerable refugees are receiving 92 percent of a full ration while the moderately vulnerable are receiving 46 percent of a ration. This reduction in food assistance and loss of income opportunities due to the impact of COVID-19 restrictions is driving, area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among the refugees.