Japan backs refugee aid in Rwanda

People fleeing the fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo arrive at a transit camp in Rwanda. Photo by: Graham Holliday / CC BY-NC

A recent $5.9 million donation for Congolese refugees in Rwanda signals Japan’s growing support to multilateral partners distributing aid to refugees in Africa, a Japanese official said on Friday.

The amount will allow the U.N. Refugee Agency, the World Food Program and UNICEF to provide relief, food, medical treatment, education and improved sanitation for over 32,000 people fleeing the ongoing ethnic conflict in Congo to seek shelter in neighboring Rwanda, a relatively stable country.

Soichiro Toyoshima, a humanitarian assistance and emergency relief officer from Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Devex that this new donation aligns with the top international donor’s wider objective of boosting its assistance for refugees in Africa, where almost half a million refugees are in dire need of help, according to UNHCR.

“Japan continues to offer [all] possible support to African refugees,” said the official, who clarified that the volume of Japan’s assistance in the future will be based on financial availability and the needs of the refugees.

The $5.9 million will be divided between UNICEF ($2.2 million), WFP ($1.7 million) and UNHCR ($2 million), as the overall coordinator for immediate humanitarian response to refugees, according to U.N. data.

Under its 2013 strategy for assisting refugees in Rwanda, UNHCR will focus chiefly on basic needs and essential services — including shelter, water, sanitation, health and nutrition — as well as registration and documentation, security, and resettlement for displaced populations.

The Japanese official said the amount was committed in response to the international community’s calls for speedy and concrete measures to bolster refugee assistance in Rwanda.

Japan places great importance to human security and both NGOs and the public sector stand to benefit from Tokyo’s future support, he added.

“We will strengthen good partnership with governments, including host countries, neighboring countries and others as well as [the] UNHCR,” Toyoshima said. “In dealing with the refugee crisis, Japan thinks it important to mobilize support from refugee host governments and communities, and to build good partnership with them.”

UNHCR has so far appealed for $29.8 million in 2013 to assist refugees in war-torn Congo. This amount could shoot up in the coming months as the U.N. agency expects the number of Congolese refugees to double by the end of the year.

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  • Johannamorden profile

    Johanna Morden

    Johanna Morden is a community development worker by training and a global development journalist by profession. As a Devex staff writer based in Manila, she covers the Asian Development Bank as well as Asia-Pacific's aid community at large. Johanna has written for a variety of international publications, covering social issues, disasters, government, ICT, business and the law.