Published Thursday , on 22 February 2018, 23:09:01 by Christophe Hitayezu

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for calm and restraint after worrying reports of a refugee protest turning violent in Rwanda’s Kiziba refugee camp.

Rwanda’s Kiziba refugee camps is located in the Karongi District, in Western Rwanda and hosts over 17,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, around 77 per cent of which are women and children.

Protesting refugees were reportedly angry about reduction in food assistance.

Humanitarian operations in Rwanda remain severely underfunded, forcing the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 10 per cent in November 2017 and by 25 per cent in January 2018.

“Refugee protection and safety is our top priority,” said Ahmed Baba Fall, UNHCR Representative in Rwanda.

UNHCR urges the refugees to respect local laws and express grievances through dialogue, while calling on authorities to handle the situation with calm and restraint.

Some refugees have also indicated their desire to return to the DRC, out of desperation.

“Refugees have the right to return to their country whenever they wish. But we urge refugees to make an informed decision and not to listen to misinformation or rumours,” added UNHCR’s Country Representative.

UNHCR is advocating with donors to address the gaps in humanitarian funding and urgent needs of refugees. To date, UNHCR’s 2018 appeal for US$ 98.8 million to support refugees in Rwanda is only is 2 per cent funded.

WFP warns about potential larger ration cuts if monthly requirements of US$2.5 million are not met. Prolonged ration cuts put at serious risk food security and nutritional needs of refugees, who are dependent on assistance.

Rwanda hosts over 173,000 refugees in six camps, including Kiziba, where Congolese refugees have lived for over 20 years.