By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) - Thousands of refugees in Rwanda have started to benefit from community-based health insurance under an understanding reached with the UN refugee agency, said Rwanda’s ministry in charge of refugees.
“Since Sept. 9 all urban refugees in Rwanda are eligible to benefit from our community-based health insurance,” Olivier Rugina Kayumba, the Rwandan Emergency Management Ministry’s permanent secretary, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.
The new development follow a memorandum of understanding signed this June between the ministry in charge of refuges, the UNHCR, and Social Security Board in the tiny east-central African country, home to some 12.2 million, according to the World Bank.
Rwanda hosts more than 150,000 refugees mainly from its crisis-ridden neighbors, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, most living in various refugee camps while about 18% live in urban areas.
The refugee insurance scheme is co-funded by the UNHCR and the government of Rwanda, the official said, adding that you only need to be a registered refugee to enroll for health insurance.
According to Kayumba, this year nearly 100 million Rwandan francs (about $100,000) has been paid to cover community health insurance premiums for 13,825 urban and refugee students who stay in boarding schools.
Health insurance is a lifesaver for refugees because paying for medical services out of pocket can be prohibitively expensive, Jean-Marie Masisi, a Congolese refugee, told Anadolu Agency.
To access medical services, adult refugees use their refugee IDs, and children under 16 with no IDs instead present health insurance cards issued to them, the official explained.
Kayumba said the health insurance covers all medical services available and described under primary health care, then secondary- and tertiary-level services can be covered based on the medical referral system -- applicable in all public health facilities.
Under the scheme, registered refugees enjoy the same rights as native Rwandans.
The enrolment of refugees in national health services rather than treating them in a parallel service is the UNHCR goal in all refugee situations globally.
The practice is an integral part of the new approach set out in the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants by the UN General Assembly, aimed to form the basis of a new global compact on refugees.
“The scheme is in line with four commitments made by Rwandan government. Note that refugees in camps also have full access to health services from healthcare facilities which are in the camp -- primary health care -- and have rights to secondary and tertiary health care in case they are referred,” said Kayumba.