The USAID Mission in Rwanda was established in 1964, a few years after the establishment of USAID in 1961 and Rwanda’s establishment as an independent republic in the same year. The early decades of U.S. assistance focused on health, sanitation and rural development – with agriculture and nutrition programs at its core. Rwanda’s food assistance programs at the time included direct provision of staple commodities (grain, rice, etc.) through the Food for Peace program, while the agriculture and nutrition programs focused on reducing food waste and improving food storage and marketing.
During the late 1970s and 80s, USAID/Rwanda began to diversify its portfolio – shifting its agriculture focus to research and education, expanding health projects to include maternal and child health and family planning, and addressing economic issues more systematically through economic policy analysis, private enterprise development, and natural resource management. By this time, USAID support to Rwanda averaged approximately $7 million each year.
In the early 1990s, in addition to the expansion of programs in economic development, agriculture, and health, USAID added activities in democracy and governance as well as humanitarian assistance. Assistance from USAID/Rwanda was halted in April 1994 following the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, but was re-established several months later to provide emergency humanitarian aid – including food aid and programs in health, nutrition, and small-scale agriculture for refugees and the internally displaced.
As the political and social situation in Rwanda began to stabilize in 1998, USAID/Rwanda entered a “transitional phase” of assistance, which sought to re-establish a fully-functional Mission as had existed prior to the conflict. The transitional phase programs focused on expanding HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, strengthening food security, and integrating new tools and technologies into agriculture development. USAID assistance throughout the transitional period – from late 1994 to 1999 – totaled approximately $61 million over five years.
Following the transitional period, USAID/Rwanda’s assistance in the early 2000s focused on post-conflict reconstruction in a variety of ways – from rebuilding justice and health systems, to reconstructing physical infrastructure, and creating an agricultural extension system. During these years – and to this day – USAID assistance focused on building the capacity of Rwandan institutions and laying the foundations for sustainable development. In addition, USAID/Rwanda increasingly supported the development and advancement of information and communications technology in Rwanda - especially as it intersected with education. As part of these efforts, USAID/Rwanda brought internet and computer services to the National University of Rwanda and other training institutions, enabling students to gain relevant skills for the swiftly advancing digital age. USAID assistance from 2000 to 2003 averaged $34.7 million annually.
Since 2003, USAID/Rwanda has worked in close partnership with the Government of Rwanda (GOR) to advance the objectives outlined in its Vision 2020 and Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies. Over the last 10 years, annual funding to USAID/Rwanda has increased from about $48 million in 2004 to over $128 million in 2016. The bulk of the increase was due to the launch of several new U.S. Presidential Initiatives including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), and the Feed the Future (FtF)food security initiative. USAID/Rwanda continues to support each of these Presidential Initiatives, as well as the Global Climate Change (GCC) initiative in its programming. In the case of PEPFAR and PMI, USAID/Rwanda works closely with other U.S. Government agencies, including the State Department, Centers for Disease Control, Department of Defense, and Peace Corps, to fully implement activities.
With the support of USAID and others, Rwanda has made remarkable progress. As Rwanda’s largest bilateral donor, the United States has helped support the agriculture-led poverty reduction the country has seen over the past 15 years- from around 60% to around 40%. Rwanda has achieved remarkable declines in maternal and under-five mortality over the past decade, demonstrating the highest average annual rates of reduction among the 75 countries where more than 95 percent of maternal and child death occur. From 2010 to 2015, under-five mortality was reduced from 76 to 50 child deaths per 1,000 live births, while the maternal mortality rate was reduced from 476 maternal deaths to 210 per 100,000 live births; greatly surpassing both Millennium Development Goals' targets. Rwanda has achieved remarkable success in increasing access to education, with primary school net enrollment standing at 97 percent. USAID/Rwanda’s current programs seek to build on these successes, and do so in four key areas: health, economic growth, education, and democracy and governance.