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Japan, UNFPA Boost Continuity of Health Services in Refugee Camps

by Daniel Sabiiti
9:52 am

UNFPA country representative Mark Bryan Schriener(L) and Marcel Sibomana, the SCI Rwanda Child Advocacy Program Manager after signing a MOU

The Japan embassy in Rwanda, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has donated personal protection equipment to humanitarian organizations to enable their staff to safely continue serving refugees amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The support, containing over 3,000 cartons of personal protection gear, was unveiled in Kigali city this Thursday October 14, 2021 and handed over to partner humanitarian organization in Rwanda such as: Africa Humanitarian Action (AHA), Save the Children International (SCI) and Alight- (the former American Refugee Committee-ARC).

The support is part of a Japan subsidiary fund project –called ‘Strengthening Maternal, Sexual and Reproductive Health (MSRH), Gender Based Violence Prevention and Response in humanitarian settings in the context of COVID-19 pandemic.

The project will be implemented for one year (renewable) with $400,000 annual spending targeting over 28,500 women and girls in reproductive health age (between 15-49 years); 500 vulnerable women and GBV survivors living in the six refugee camps in Rwanda.

“The equipment will help protect frontline health workers as they deliver sexual reproductive health (SRH) and gender based violence (GBV) services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Yukako Ochi, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Japan embassy in Rwanda.

Globally, UNFPA strategic priorities in regards to COVID-19 pandemic have revolved around two major interventions: protection of frontline health workers providing SRH services amidst the pandemic, continuity of essential SRH services and availability of FP commodities and lifesaving medicines amidst Covid-19.

UNFPA Rwanda Country Representative, Mark Bryan Schreiner said that by protecting the humanitarian camp staff, this will enable them to remain resilient in providing health services in camps.

“I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Government of Japan for their important and continued financial support for humanitarian response thereby ensuring continuity of SRH and maternal health services amidst the challenges caused by COVID-19 pandemic,” Schreiner said.

The support comes at a time when humanitarian organisations agree with the government that the impact of COVID-19 has derailed the urgent sense of intervention in GBV and SRH intervention in communities let alone refugee camps.

Following a recent GBV report released by government indicating that the rate of child sexual abuse increased by 33% in COVID-19, Marcel Sibomana, the SCI Rwanda Child Advocacy program manager said that it is time to act and end the scourge.

“We need to wake up and work in partnerships to ensure that every child is protected in Rwanda and especially in the refugee camps. This support will prepare our staff to reach many and safely,” Sibomana said.

Bernard O. Ochieng, the Country Representative of Alight, which has been in Rwanda since 1995, said that the pandemic caught humanitarian organizations off guard but it has also left them with new lessons to improve their intervention activities.

“The major lessons we have learnt is to be relevant, innovative and also to listen to the people we serve. We have seen that this is possible especially how Rwanda has managed to deal with the pandemic involving citizens,” Ochieng said.

Bitu Abebe, the AHA Country Representative also said that without external support the intervention activities during the pandemic would remain limited thanks to Japan and UNFPA.

The Government of Japan has been a critical partner to UNFPA’s response in humanitarian settings. Globally, in 2016, Japan contributed around $36 million to UNFPA’s programme and operations. In addition to this, Japan funds supported UNFPA Rwanda in 2018 with over $400,000.

The current MSRH, GBV Prevention and Response in humanitarian settings in the context of COVID-19 pandemic is also, in particular, expected to support referral systems, avail additional spaces and equipment for quality provision of maternal health, sexual and reproductive health services while protecting women in reproductive health age using SRH services and the frontline health workers.

The project will also support a move from paper based medical information management to electronic medical information management system.