From an outsider perspective, Rwanda is still almost exclusively associated with the genocide that occurred in 1994. In approximately 100 days, up to one million Rwandans were killed by their fellow countrymen in an orchestrated ‘ethnic cleansing’ - they had been sharing the same language, the same religion and the same country...
While Rwanda has been trying to overcome this legacy and has progressively recovered its stability, the economic situation is still precarious - 65% of the population lived below the poverty line in 2000 versus 45% in 1985. The war seriously affected the country’s human capital as well as its agricultural and industrial infrastructures. In addition to the challenges of reconstruction and national reconciliation, Rwanda must also face long-term poverty and health-related issues. One of the most densely populated countries in Africa, Rwanda has a very high population growth rate (2.9% per annum), which limits the amount of land a family can access for agricultural production. Approximately 92% of the Rwandan labor force is involved in agriculture, although many of these individuals are simply subsistence farmers struggling to feed their families. The average per capita income is about $250 per year, but significant socioeconomic discrepancies exist between the country’s rural and urban areas: 68% of the rural population lives below the poverty line versus 22.6% of the urban population.
Another scourge, the AIDS pandemic, is ravaging lives and has a significant impact on the country, increasingly impoverishing those affected by the virus. In Rwanda, the overall prevalence rate among adults is 3% and it is estimated that one in four adults has HIV in Kigali. The number of orphans--from AIDS as well as other causes--is also large and requires a compassionate response.
Since 1994, World Relief has been working with churches to change lives and bring hope to Rwanda.