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Lifting stringent COVID-19 restrictions enhances food security of urban poor households

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Rwanda
  • August 2021
Lifting stringent COVID-19 restrictions enhances food security of urban poor households

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Following a substantial decline in daily COVID-19 infections and deaths, the government lifted some of the stringent control measures in August including the lockdown in Kigali and eight other districts as well as the ban on inter-district movement. The continuous easing of restrictions will gradually contribute to the re-opening of businesses and increased income earning opportunities, improving food security for urban households. Though substantial restrictions such as limited business hours and operating capacity and a national nighttime curfew remain in place, increased household purchasing power from improved income access as economic activities resume paired with low food prices is maintaining area-level Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in urban areas.

    • The availability of above-average household food stocks from 2021 Season B harvests, attributable to restricted movement that constrained marketing of agricultural products in June and July, has stabilized food access in rural areas. In addition, enhanced rural and urban market accessibility in August following the suspension of COVID-19-related lockdowns and movement restrictions has contributed to lower and stable food prices across the country, increasing food access through market purchases.  The on-going land preparation for Season A planting has increased agricultural labor opportunities, increasing income among poor households in rural areas.  Stable household food availability and access as well as enhanced income access from crop sales and agricultural labor are driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in rural areas.

    • WFP received EUR 500,000 in August from the European Union to support the food and nutrition needs of about 46,000 refugees in Mahama camp. While this contribution and support from other donors received in 2021 has played a critical role in addressing food and nutrition needs of refugees, significant food assistance needs have remained since March 2021 when WFP cut refugee food assistance by 60 percent due to funding shortfalls. Ration reductions, declining income earning opportunities from the closure of small-scale businesses, and loss of casual labor opportunities due to COVID-19 restrictions are expected to drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity for the UNHCR estimated 128,000 refugees in Rwanda.

    Kigali City and Refugee populationReduction/loss of food ration to refugee and the COVID-19 control measures impact economic activity and limit income-earning opportunities and food access among the urban poor and refugees. Funding shortfalls and COVID-19 control measures are expected to limit access to food and income, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes among urban poor and refugee households, respectively.



    Households in rural areas are still utilizing food stocks from the above-average Season B harvest. Stocks remain above average mainly due to restricted movement that hindered inter-district and urban marketing of food in June and July. This has increased food availability and access among rural households. The increased supply of food to both rural and urban areas that followed the lifting of inter-district movement restrictions in August 2021 is stabilizing food prices across the country. In the Northern Province, the August 2021 price of beans is about 400 RWF/kg compared to the average August price of about 550 RWF/kg. Similarly, current maize price of about 250 RWF/kg is lower compared to usual seasonal price of about 350 RWF/kg.  On the other hand, land preparation for Season A planting increased demand for agricultural labor, thus providing income for poor households, the majority of whom rely on casual labor. Overall, food stock availability, below-average food prices, and access to agricultural labor income is driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in rural areas.

    Daily COVID-19 cases have decreased from over 2,000 cases in July 2021 to about 600 cases per day in August, leading the government to gradually lift some stringent control measures. including an end to total lockdown in Kigali city and eight districts, free inter-district movement, and learning institutions have re-opened. The continued easing of COVID-19 control measures is expected to lead to the reopening of businesses and creation of employment opportunities, thereby increasing income earning opportunities for urban households and boost food supplies from rural areas. The on-going COVID-19 vaccination program was accelerated in August and currently 3.3 percent of the population is fully vaccinated as of 20 August.

    In the Western Province, cross-border trade with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is expected to gradually improve following the agreement between the two countries to ease COVID-19 movement restrictions and reduce taxes on some agricultural commodities. The current daily cross-border movement of about 15,000 people is expected to progressively increase and get closer to pre-COVID-19 levels of an average of 55,000 people per day. This will primarily benefit the small-scale traders who were disproportionally affected by high transport costs and strict border regulations. Ultimately, the increase in cross-border trade will improve income and purchasing power in the province.  Overall, low and stable food prices, easing of control measures, and increased economic activity have improved income-earning opportunities and household purchasing power for urban poor households maintaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) area-level outcomes in urban areas.

    According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), the July 2021 national consumer price index (CPI) decreased slightly by 0.3 percent compared to June 2021, and decreased by 1.1 percent compared to July 2020. In both urban and rural areas, the price of 'food and non-alcoholic beverages' increased slightly by 0.1 percent compared to July 2021. The slight price increases were driven primarily by a 1.9 and 1.6 percent increase in 'vegetable' prices in urban and rural areas, respectively, compared to June 2021 due to movement restrictions that affected marketing of vegetables. Notably, at the national level, prices of ‘bread and cereal’ and ‘milk, cheese, and eggs’ decreased by 1.2 and 1.3 percent, respectively, compared to June 2021 prices, driven by an adjustment of prices by traders that followed consumers complaints of higher prices.

    The European Union donated EUR 500,000 in August to WFP to support the food and nutrition needs of about 46,000 refugees in Mahama camp. While this contribution along with support from other donors is mitigating the negative impact of the 60 percent reduction of general food assistance to refugees since March 2021, the UNHCR estimated 128,000 refugee and asylum-seekers remain food insecure. In addition, COVID-19 has adversely affected movement, business, and work opportunities previously relied upon by refugees and urban poor reversing some of the economic gains achieved such as self-reliance for some households and weakened social support among refugees. Though the program for the voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from Rwanda remains active, no recent returns have taken place due to funding shortfalls and the impact of COVID-19.  With the decreasing income-earning opportunities exacerbated by COVID-19, reduced food assistance from humanitarian agencies, and weakened social support, refugee households will likely continue experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes.


    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on RATIN data

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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