August 13, 2021

Cash for Destitutes: Rwanda’s Lifeline for the Poorest

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A woman tends to her kitchen garden, a must-have in Rwanda’s villages, where households grow vegetables to improve their diet. With the kitchen garden, the woman would have to buy the greens (Photo: CorpsAfrica)

In Rubavu district, several years ago, the daughter of 51-year-old Kamaliza (not real name) who is blind, could not attend school despite living within walking distance of a free government school.

The mother claims that she didn’t have money to buy school materials and uniforms, and they would often go hungry.

“How can a hungry child go to school?” She asks in apparent justification for why the child could go not to school despite basic education being free.

One day, residents in her village identified the family to be under the government’s cash grant scheme called ‘Vision 2020 Umurenge Program – direct support’ or VUP direct support.

Introduced more than a decade ago, the scheme provides monthly cash transfer to extremely poor households that have no one able to work. It includes people with severe disability and the very elderly.

A single person gets Rwf 7,500 ($7.5) every month sent directly to their local SACCO account. The money increases depending on the size of the family.

Funded by international donors including the UN and World Bank, the VUP direct support scheme is one of key government successes in tackling extreme poverty that is featured in the latest UN Human Development Report released August 12.

The other schemes is Girinka (cover per family program) and the community-based health insurance scheme (CBHI) which has enabled local villagers to get treatment for which they pay a small amount as their contribution.

The case of the mother highlighted above is one of 95,004 households countrywide getting the cash at the end of every month. The target is to reach at least 130,000 houselholds.

The Rubavu family recieves a monthly grant of Rwf12,000 ($12). Since the household started receiving the grant, however, the moyther and her child have had enough food and at least two meals a day. In addition, her daughter is in school because she was able to buy her a uniform, shoes and books.

She also bought clean clothes and new cooking utensils. Most importantly, however, she is happy that she bought a sheep that she hopes will lift her out of poverty. She managed to acquire the assets by savings, which she credits the local government officials who informed her and other beneficiaries, and regularly visits her and provide useful advice. She feels that she is no longer destitute and is fully integrated in society.

“Now I have the guts to confidently go where people are congregating because I have clean clothes, and no one will backbite me for not having what to eat,” she
says confidently.

The executive secretary of Bugeshi Sector, Rubavu district said of the direct cash program: “In Kabumba cell, Bugeshi sector, six people who lived off begging on roadsides stopped begging. They are now living dignified lives because the [Direct Support] grant enables them to get food and soap. They also sleep comfortably on mattresses and no longer look emaciated. You can go and visit them. Those who knew them before can testify to you that they are completely transformed people.”

The 188-page UN report explored Rwanda’s home-grown solutions and their impact on the ordinary Rwandan. They have helped the country deal with extreme poverty, thereby improving family welfare and life expectancy.

“Rwanda’s progress in human development has been impressive,” said the UNDP Resident Representative, Maxwell Gomera at the reports launch in Kigali.

Data shows that between 1990 and 2019, Rwanda’s HDI value increased from 0.248 to 0.543, an increase of 119.0 percent – the highest average growth in the world. Over the same period, Rwanda’s life expectancy at birth increased by 35.6 years, mean years of schooling increased by 2.7 years and expected years of schooling increased by 5.5 years.

The five Home-Grown Solutions selected for review are the Girinka Programme (one cow per family), Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme (VUP), Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI), Imihigo (performance contracts) and Umuganda (Community work).

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