Rwanda: Socio-Economic Assessment (SEA) of refugees and host communities

Background and context

In Rwanda, the estimated refugee population is 145,961 (2020), with six camps around the country and two cities (Kigali and Huye) hosting a significant number of refugees (Rwanda Country Refugee Response Plan January 2020 to December 2021). The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi are the two main countries of origin for refugees in Rwanda. The number of refugees from Burundi is estimated to grow while that of the DRC remains stable.

A Joint Strategy by Ministry in Charge of Emergency Management in Rwanda (MINEMA) and UNHCR was developed in 2016 for enhancing refugee self-reliance and economic inclusion for the period of 2016-2020. The Strategy envisioned that by 2020 all refugees and neighboring communities are able to fulfil their productive potential as self-reliant members of Rwandan society. The Strategy has three pillars: wage employment, self-employment, and advocacy initiatives.

A preliminary review of the existing joint strategy identified inadequacy of socioeconomic data and lack of a comprehensive framework for tracking results, monitoring progress, and for informing future programming. An urgent need for collecting comprehensive and reliable data is aligned with the Government of Rwanda’s (GoR) long-term vision and commitments made through the newly launched Strategic Plan for Refugee Inclusion. The Strategic Plan emphasized gathering socioeconomic data for regular monitoring and tracking results of the progress made so far, on a comprehensive basis. The need for data for planning and programming purposes was also highlighted in the World Bank’s appraisal under IDA18 Refugee Sub-Window for Refugees and Host Communities.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic increases the urgent need for timely data on socioeconomic conditions of refugees and host communities. Refugees and host communities have been affected widely by the COVID-19 pandemic and policies to contain its spread. Under these circumstances, the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) and the World Bank agreed to launch a high frequency phone survey to monitor the impact of COVID-19 and corresponding policies on socioeconomic activities in Rwanda in a regular and timely manner.

The activity described expands the COVID-19 phone survey by including a sample of refugees in refugee camps and urban areas, such as Kigali and Huye. To make data comparable between refugees and non-refugees, the questionnaire for refugees will resemble that of non-refugees as much as possible, although some refugee specific questions will be included. The common questionnaire will also add questions regarding relationships between refugees and non-refugees.

Activity Description

This section describes the process, including the sample and questionnaire design, and steps for anonymization of data.

Sample design

The Socio-Economic Assessment (SEA) will be conducted by collecting data from refugees and host communities by adding the following samples to the COVID-19 high frequency phone survey:

  • All refugee camps (Mahama, Gihembe, Nyabiheke, Kigeme, Mugombwa, Kiziba);
  • refugees in urban areas (mainly Kigali and Huye); and
  • host communities.

Data collection for the host communities will be a continuation of the COVID-19 high frequency phone survey.[1] The planned COVID-19 high frequency survey has a sample of 1,500 respondents, while five strata with a total of 1,500 respondents will be assigned to the sample of refugees.[2],[3]  The total planned sample size is 3,000 households, with 1,500 non-refugee and 1,500 refugee households, each to be surveyed three times. Out of the five strata, one stratum is assigned to three old camps (Gihembe, Nyabiheke, and Kiziba), and one stratum each is assigned to Kigeme, Mugombwa, Mahama, and to refugees in urban areas (Kigali and Huye).


The questionnaire will follow the COVID-19 high frequency phone survey, which includes questions regarding the knowledge of COVID-19, behaviour to prevent the infection, access to markets and basic needs, employment, coping mechanism, and social safety nets. Broad categories of data and variables may include, but are not limited to:

  • Knowledge of COVID-19 and government policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and behaviors to prevent the infection;
  • Access to markets, medical services, finance, and phones;
  • Employment and income including sources of incomes, employment status, and job/income losses;
  • Asset ownership;
  • Support from the government and NGOs;
  • Food insecurity, vulnerability, and poverty;[4]
  • Household coping strategies, and financial risk management strategies;
  • Interest and motivation of populations of concern (PoC) to find wage and/or self-employment;
  • Factors that hinder participation in certain areas of work, access to labor market, and productivity;
  • Access to market/interaction with the local economy.

Overall objectives

The Socio-Economic Assessment (SEA) exercise will include, but is not limited to, the following objectives:

  • To provide comprehensive socioeconomic data for informing strategy/socioeconomic programming/resource mobilization plans to enhance self-reliance of all refugees living in Rwanda and their host community members;
  • Track/monitor progress of the joint GoR-UNHCR economic inclusion strategy as well as the GoR Strategic Plan for Refugee inclusion in Rwanda and relevant projects (including the WB supported Socio-Economic Inclusion Project);[5]
  • Monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the socioeconomic conditions of refugees and host communities and release the findings via dashboard; and
  • Communicate with impact for partnership building and resource mobilization (speaking with data).

Engagement with partners

The project is being implemented by the World Bank in partnership with UNHCR, and in close collaboration with Rwanda’s Ministry in charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) and the National Institute of Statistics Rwanda (NISR). The project concept note has been prepared in consultation with partners and collaboration will continue on questionnaire design, sampling, analysis, and dissemination. Other development and humanitarian partners interested in the socioeconomic assessment of refugees will be engaged via the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework.


For further details on this activity, please contact:



[1] For the non-refugee sample, no sample will be added to the COVID-19 phone survey. That said, if there are large attrition in the COVID-19 phone survey, samples will be added.

[2] Based on the cost estimation for the COVID-19 High Frequency Phone Survey, three rounds with a sample of 3,000 respondents is estimated to cost $180,000.  

[3] Using the latest national household survey (EICV5), the standard error of poverty rate for each stratum (300 observations) is estimated to be 5.5 percent while the relative standard error of household expenditure per adult equivalent for each stratum is estimated to be 12 percent.

[4] To estimate poverty and vulnerability, a machine learning technique is planned to be used. However, since training data for the machine learning approach is not available for refugees, the poverty projections will be seen with caveats. If additional funding becomes available, the team plans to collect full consumption data necessary to estimate official poverty statistics.  

[5] UNHCR and the World Bank teams will continue to seek additional funds so that (i) an EICV type household survey including full consumption data for refugees and host communities will be collected and (ii) a high frequency phone survey can be continued in a few years.  

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