February 2021

ASSESSING THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON ACCESS TO WATER, SANITATION, AND HYGIENE – Country Deep Dive Report – Rwanda

In May 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) tasked the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Partnerships and Learning for Sustainability (WASHPaLS) project with assessing the effects of the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services and products in USAID high priority and strategy-aligned countries. The assignment sought to characterize the current state of affairs and to forecast near-term trends (6–18 months) that could assist governments, donors and implementers prepare an informed response to the WASH-related impacts of the pandemic.

This report presents the detailed findings of the deep dive for Rwanda.

The Government of Rwanda acted very quickly in response to the onset of COVID-19, putting in place one of the most stringent lockdowns in Africa, with border closure, restrictions on public transport and internal movement, and a stay-at-home order from March 21 to May 4, followed by nighttime curfew. Rwanda exhibited the largest decline in mobility of any of the countries we examined as part of our deep dive analyses, as well as sustaining those declines for the longest duration.

Respondents to our SMS surveys reported that COVID has had a major effect on their incomes: about 29 percent reported losing their job and another 40 percent reported earning less money. Among the 41 percent that ran a nonfarm business, 27 percent closed their business. These reported income and job losses are second only to Kenya among the six African countries where we conducted surveys. The Rwandan government did not issue a formal water tariff relaxation policy, though it did launch a fund to support affected businesses through subsidized loans from commercial banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs), and credit guarantees, targeting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and hard-hit sectors such as the hospitality industry.

Our topline findings, by subsector, are as follows:

WATER SUPPLY – CURRENT STATUS

  1. Urban residents are more likely than rural residents to report that the pandemic has made water access more difficult.
  2. Rwanda’s national utility, supplying mainly urban populations, suffered revenue losses during the strict lockdown period but does not appear to be facing imminent service suspensions.
  3. Rural and small-town providers, more vulnerable than WASAC, suffered financial and operational challenges during the lockdown period, including supply chain difficulties.

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