Press Release —Local July 09, 2020

Refugees In Rwanda Are Generating Income By Making Face Masks

Refugees In Rwanda Are Generating Income By Making Face Masks

Kigali – The International Organization for Migration in partnership with UNHCR, the Government of Rwanda and Non-Governmental Organization Maison Shalom, is distributing 20,000 reusable face masks to refugees living in the country as part of the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The masks have been produced by a women group (34 individuals) in Mahama refugee camp as part of the income-generating project to improve their livelihood. Mahama camps located in Kirehe district in the Eastern province of Rwanda is home to over 60,000 refugees mostly from the Republic of Burundi.

Rebeca Kankidi lives with her family of 10 members in the Mahama refugee camp. She is one of the women who have been contracted to make the masks.
“I’m happy that we have been entrusted as women with the production of barrier masks to protect refugees against COVID-19 pandemic. I am very grateful because the income I get from this will help support my family,” said Rebeca Kankidi.

As the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) diseases continue to spread, countries around the world are taking strict measures to contain and respond to it. So far, the strategy has been the one of containment. From nationwide lockdowns to travel bans, the idea is that by drastically restricting the movement of people, countries can contain existing cases and avoid fatal outbreak that could rapidly devastate local health systems. As of 1st July 2020, Rwanda has confirmed 1042 cases and among them, 559 are active.

COVID-19 induced restrictions such as travel bans and curfews have slowed economic activity, where restrictions to the movement of people and goods are having a significant adverse impact on the informal economy and individual livelihoods, including refugees in camps. With dwindling incomes, these groups are unable to afford Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from the virus.

“This intervention is a great example of how the UN can work with local and international NGOs to contribute to the livelihood of refugees, especially during the global COVID-19 pandemic,” said IOM Rwanda Chief of Mission, Ms. Helene Fors.

This distribution is supported by the US State Department – Trafficking in Persons Office (JTIP) and will be ensured in the framework of an IOM Rwanda comprehensive intervention on COVID-19 response that will include the donation of 170 boxes of surgical masks to the One-Stop Centers across the country, as well as the procurement of 75 handwashing stations to the refugee camps.

    For more information please contact IOM Rwanda Public Information at