Panafrican News Agency

Efforts in fight against COVID-19 highlighted in Rwandan dailies this week

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) - High-level discussions to fight coronavirus including the latest conversation between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, dominated the front pages of newspapers this week in Rwanda.

Under headline "Kagame, Indian PM Modi discuss COVID-19 crisis," the English daily 'The New Times' reported that President Kagame thanked PM Modi for the medical supplies and equipment his county has donated to Rwanda in this fight.

Officials declined to divulge details of the Indian support, but the newspaper quoted Prime Minister Modi as saying that "Rwanda has managed the COVID-19 crisis effectively under your leadership. India is honoured to support your efforts, not only for fighting the pandemic but also for advancing Rwanda's impressive development story".

The newspaper recalled that the Indian Association of Rwanda (INAR) on 8 April donated medical supplies worth two million Rwandan francs to the local authorities to help with testing and treating of COVID-19 patients.

Mr. Modi paid a two-day state visit in Rwanda in July 2018, becoming the first Indian head of government to set foot in Rwanda during which he announced the opening of the Indian High Commission in Kigali.

In another article, the private 'The Chronicles' reported that due to the COVID-19 crisis, remittance flows from Rwandans are expected to decline by up to 23 percent, a trend to be witnessed not only in this region, but globally.

According to the newspaper, the World Bank's latest update issued late in April shows that the projected fall, which would be the sharpest decline in recent history, is largely due to a fall in the wages and employment of migrant workers, who tend to be more vulnerable to loss of employment and wages during an economic crisis in a host country.

On a regular basis, Rwandans send small amounts as low as $200 back home every month to cater for their families. Others send relatively huge sums for development projects like building a home or maintaining a business, the newspaper said.

A fall in remittances, according to the English daily, affects families’ ability to spend on such projects as more of their finances will be directed to solve food shortages and immediate livelihood needs.

In 2017, remittances to Rwanda reached $184 million, and this rose to more than $260 million the following year. The figures for 2019 are yet to be available, but are likely to rise slightly.

“The ongoing economic recession caused by COVID-19 is taking a severe toll on the ability to send money home and makes it all the more vital that we shorten the time to recovery for advanced economies,” the newspaper quoted World Bank Group President David Malpass as saying.

“Remittances help families afford food, healthcare, and basic needs,” Mr Malpass said.

While assessing these impacts, 'The Chronicles', which is seen as very critical of the Government, noted that in addition to the pandemic’s impact, many countries in the Eastern Africa region are experiencing a severe outbreak of desert locusts attacking crops and threatening food supply for the people.

In another article,  'KT Press', another semi-private newspaper, said local factories that were tasked to provide face masks for the Rwandan community in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19, have claimed there is no market for their product.

In mid-April, according to the newspaper, some 38 garment companies were asked to manufacture enough face masks for the local market and until 8 May, they reported they were “overwhelmed” by demand.

A couple of weeks down the road, however, the newspaper reported that the manufacturers are porting a different scenario.

The representative of the face mask manufacturers, Swaib Munyawera, told 'KT Press' that when when they were asked to provide face masks, they made heavy investments to meet the standard that was required.

"Now, 3 million face masks that have failed to get buyers are equivalent to Rwf 1.2 billion when you consider the Rwf 400 per unit," he said.

For potential buyers, however, the COVID-19 has left a gap in families' incomes. With this in mind, whoever buys a face mask, tries to wear it for as long as possible, the newspaper said.

‘The New Times’ reported in an article entitled: ‘National budget faces over Rwf210 billion financing gap' that lawmakers have indicated that the national budget is facing Rwf216.5 billion in funding gaps.

During the budget hearing at Parliament on 29 May, Rwandan Minister of Health, Daniel Ngamije told parliamentarians that Rwf577 million was allocated for vaccines, which is less than Rwf1 billion which the Ministry planned to use in 2020/2021 fiscal year.

“If possible, such a budget should be increased because it [vaccination] is an important programme and it can have adverse effects on the health of children once it is not implemented effectively,” the Minister said

-0- PANA TWA/MA 6June2020