Rwanda is defeating the scourge of poverty

22 March 2012

Rwanda, like so many countries in Africa – such as Sierra Leone and Liberia are invariably making the fight against poverty a national priority. In Sierra Leone the obscene levels of poverty seen five years ago, remain entrenched.

Over 65% of the population in Sierra Leone live in absolute poverty, earning less than one dollar a day, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid support. Analysts believe this anomaly to be largely due to corruption, poor governance and misplaced priorities by the government.

In Rwanda, there are encouraging signs of dramatic shifts in effort, aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals and tackling poverty.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, in Rwanda; “over 60% of individuals live in poverty and 42% in absolute poverty. Using the household as a unit, 57% live below the poverty line. Rwanda has a high female population (53%), of whom large proportions are widows and/or single women. Nearly one-third, or 32.1%, of Rwandan households are headed by women.”

“In terms of poverty gender disparities, 62% of female-headed households lie below the poverty line compared to 54% of male-headed households. The incidence of poverty is much higher in rural areas (66%) than in urban areas (12% in Kigali and 19% in other towns). Inequality runs deep, with the richest 10% of the population holding approximately 50% of the national wealth compared with 50% of the population sharing just 10% of the wealth” – says the UNDP.

Today, The World Bank says that “it is providing technical and financial assistance to Rwanda as the country connects and strengthens its existing programs that protect poor and vulnerable people into a single system with coordinated management and expanded coverage”.

An estimated 115,000 households, or about half a million people, stand to benefit.

The Support to Social Protection System (SSPS-1) Development Policy Grant of SDR 26.1 million (US$40 million equivalent) to Rwanda was approved today by the Bank.

This is the first in a series of three World Bank operations designed to support the Government of Rwanda’s growing effort to address chronic poverty and cushion poor people from the adverse impacts of economic and climatic shocks through a larger and more efficient social protection system as envisaged by the 2011 National Social Protection Strategy.

Rwanda has made notable progress towards many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that fall due in 2015, including those related to access to primary education, the fight against communicable diseases, and better health and survival rates for mothers and children.

Extreme poverty at the national level in Rwanda has fallen to 24.1 percent in 2010/11, a drop of 11.7 percentage points from 2005/6.

However, given rapid population growth, the country’s rapid gains on the poverty reduction front need to be accelerated in order to get closer to the poverty and hunger MDG.

“Public transfers have been quoted among the four major factors that have contributed to this accelerated poverty performance,” said Mr. Justine Gatzinzi, the Deputy Director General for Social Protection Directorate in the Rwanda Local Development Support Fund.

With World Bank support, Rwanda will focus on the following areas as it consolidates the new system: (i) strengthening policy development and management capacity of the social protection sector; (ii) consolidation of social protection management information systems; (iii) expanding coverage and enhancing harmonization of social protection interventions in the country; and (iv) connecting the social protection system with early warning systems that provide information about extreme climatic conditions and natural disasters.

“Our support to Rwanda as it integrates its social protection activities will help the country cope with a number of remaining challenges such as a unified registry system, better targeting of poor and vulnerable households, and proper evaluation of the impact of safety nets,” said Alex, Kamurase, Senior Social Protection Specialist at the World Bank.

World Bank support is in the form of an International Development Association (IDA) grant. IDA is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries. Established in 1960, IDA reduces poverty by providing interest-free credits and grants that boost economic growth, and improve people’s living conditions.

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