Rwanda is prone to droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, storms, and volcanoes. The effects of flood hazards have worsened as recent population growth and land scarcity have pushed people to settle in flood-prone areas. In 2012, heavy rains in the northern and western provinces led to flooding that caused extensive damage and impacted about 11,000 people.
Nearly 70 percent of Rwanda’s population is exposed to magnitude 6.0 earthquakes, while 30 percent is exposed to magnitude 5.0 earthquakes. In 2008, two earthquakes occurred within hours of one another (magnitudes 6.1 and 5.0), killing nearly 40 people and destroying 1,201 homes in the hardest hit districts of Rusizi and Nyamasheke.
Since 1970, the country has experienced a higher than global average temperature increase and Rwanda is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Climate change is bringing more irregular and unpredictable rainfall patterns with shorter rain seasons to the largely rain-fed agriculture sector. Crop- and livestock-suitable areas, growing seasons, and potential yields are expected to continue decreasing. In 2008, erratic rainfall caused maize yield losses of 37 percent in the eastern provinces and 26 percent in the southern provinces.
The government has scaled up efforts to integrate disaster risk management (DRM) into national policies and long-term development plans. In 2010, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs was established to manage natural and man-made disasters. The country formulated a National Disaster Management Policy of 2012 serves as the country’s legal and institutional framework for DRM and ensures that activities are coordinated and that partnerships are fostered between the government and stakeholders.
The government is also enacting policy to address climate change. The 2011 National Strategy for Climate Change and Low Carbon Development provides a mechanism to mobilize funding to finance climate change resilience programs.
To further advance its DRM agenda, the Government of Rwanda is prioritizing:
- Strengthening institutional capacity and coordinating DRM mechanisms across sectors;
- Enhancing disaster preparedness and ensuring alignment with local and national disaster management plans; and,
- Contributing to poverty reduction and sustainable development by developing DRM policies.
GFDRR has supported disaster risk management efforts in Rwanda since 2008. Key areas include strengthening risk identification and capacity building for DRM and improving disaster preparedness.
In 2008, GFDRR supported activities to develop a partnership among East African countries to strengthen DRM capacity and collaboration at the national and regional level. This led to a subsequent project beginning in 2012 thru the ACP-EU Natural Disaster Risk Reduction (NDRR) Program for risk reduction and sustainable development in the Horn of Africa, including Rwanda. These activities enhanced the ability of countries to use regional modeling techniques and to better manage the risks associated with climate change.
That same year, and also thru the ACP-EU NDRR Program, activities began to provide the Rwandan government technical assistance to conduct a comprehensive risk analysis, produce evidence-based national and district-level disaster risk profiles, and build disaster risk reduction capacity. As a result, in September 2015, the government launched the first Rwanda National Risk Atlas, focusing on drought, earthquake, flood, landslide, and windstorm hazards. The atlas highlights hazard vulnerability and exposure, and outlines key mitigation recommendations.
Currently, GFDRR is supporting a project in northwest Rwanda to improve flood risk forecasting and disaster preparedness by providing key technical studies, training, and guidance. Activities are expected to enhance early warning systems for at-risk communities and to help develop and implement flood mitigation measures in selected communities and sectors.
GFDRR anticipates new and continued demand from the Government of Rwanda for:
- Increasing understanding of disaster risk;
- Improving DRM capacity; and,
- Fostering a national dialogue on developing a comprehensive DRM program.