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On 14th March 2020, Rwanda confirmed the very first person who tested positive for COVID-19. The person was spotted one week after he arrived from India. Upon arrival, he continued his selling activities in a supermarket and it was undeniable that he had been in contact with countless people. The situation urged the government to make quick decisions such as school closure followed by a total lockdown, something that Rwandans were generally not mentally prepared for. The extent to which such shock affected people’s wellness is a big concern.

Ordinarily, people have the right to move whether they are going to work or to visit friends. With lockdowns, people were obliged to stay at home and avoid physical connections which dramatically changed the nature of social interactions. This also came at a time when people were living with the fear of uncertainty as for some people the World was coming to an end. The situation of people being kept in their homes during a stressful situation can develop behaviour and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression as they spent much time worrying about what going to happen next, especially that most people lost their jobs. When the government announced the first lockdown, many businesses and activities closed yet it was a source of income for many. Some people had no savings at all as they relied on a daily wage to survive. This video shows people expressing their worries as they have nothing to eat at all and do not know how they are going to survive. It was even worse for people who have families to take care of; some men reported thinking of committing suicide as they could not stand sitting at home unable to provide for their families and seeing their children starve in front of them. This could be explained by how boredom can make people aggressive psychologically since they do not have anything important to focus on.

Lockdowns have ignited and increased domestic abuse in families. One woman shared her story in a globalsistersreport on how both she and his husband lost jobs and had to spend the whole day together at home. They started arguing about unimportant things such as cooking meats with cheap recipes, but it later turned into a serious conflict. Her husband started beating her to the extent that she would lose consciousness. With his violent actions, the woman could no longer stand it and decided to run away with her children. Her story added to what the chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda told The Newtimes about the significant increase in domestic abuse since the lockdown was announced. She said that they are receiving twice the number of calls they used to receive from people crying for help due to domestic violence. Among the callers, there were also couples whose divorce process was halted by covid 19, and they had to remain together despite their conflicts which led to domestic violence. Household abuse has worse effects on mental health, especially for children as it is associated with depression and anxiety.  Women or men who have experienced household abuse are susceptible to post-traumatic stress syndrome which makes it difficult for them to socialise or trust other people 1. Children are victims too because once exposed to home abuse, they experience social, mental and emotional damage which makes them feel isolated and confused and also affects their development growth and the empathy they feel for others 2. The fact that covid 19 increased the cases of household violence can also imply the increased mental health problems of people who have experienced such violence.

Students’ Voice

COVID-19 gave everyone a hard time, including students. When the first COVID-19 case in Rwanda was confirmed, the first thing to close were schools in every category. Students who were in boarding schools were quickly sent back home and only a small percentage of them were able to continue their studies virtually. The magnitude of the effects this closure had on students is still yet to be determined however, some effects can be discussed. Firstly school closure disrupted the daily routine of kids and social interactions with their classmates which led to confusion as some of them kept wondering when they would return to school. Even though the government put in place some measures for students to continue their studies using radio and television, the majority of them were not able to follow up with their studies which affected their learning abilities and performance due to a long time without being in class. The fact that students knew that they were going to repeat the year, affected their mental health, especially those who were preparing for national exams. It deeply saddened some students that they were going to have one year lost not because they performed badly in class but because of the pandemic. It was even worse when the country introduced regional lockdowns such as the one in Kigali city that happened in January 2021, because some students had their siblings and friends who were studying yet, they couldn’t because their areas were in lockdown which made them feel bad. In addition to this, some students normally engaged in playing activities during school closure time, which hindered their interests and focus in school as they rather preferred to keep working for money rather than studying.  The closure of schools also forced children to spend more time with their families, especially during quarantines yet some of those families were abusive and violent which led to psychological wounds and brain impairment 3.  Moreover,  children with mental health disorders such as autism were deprived of the support they were being offered by specialised schools they were attending which made their situation more vulnerable 3. Lastly, some students were able to continue their studies using online methods. Most courses were accessed using  PCs and phones. Though it helped them to cope with the psychological distress of ending their studies abruptly, on the other side, it resulted in technological addiction which affects their cognitive skills 3

In Grieving times….

Changes in grieving for a dead person due to COVID-19, also affected people’s mental health. In normal circumstances, family members, friends and neighbours were expected to participate in funeral activities to comfort the deceased ‘s family as a sign of solidarity among Rwandans. At funerals, you could see hundreds of people because not being present implies something else. However, when the pandemic happened, the government introduced restrictions on the number of people who attend funerals. In most cases, they were not supposed to exceed. They are also other rituals that follow the death of an individual such as visiting the family of people who lost a person which was not possible during lockdowns. Consequently, mourning people’s mental health has been adversely affected due to the pandemic because they were not familiar with the new ways and received limited comfort from their communities 3. Besides, since 1995, there has been a commemoration week starting on April 7. It is a mourning week where genocide survivors and the rest of the country remember their people who were killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. During this week, people used to visit memorial centres and engage in other activities that provided some comfort as they remember their lost ones. However, in 2020, the commemoration week happened during lockdown, which disfavored the moral, psychological and spiritual support to genocide survivors and there was insufficient attention paid to this vulnerable population which undoubtedly affected their mental well-being 4.

Covid-19 did not only affect the socio-economic life of Rwandans but it also affected their mental health in the aforementioned ways. It is crucial for people to be aware of the impact COVID-19 has had on their mental well-being and start addressing them. The governments also need to come up with measures to mitigate the effects covid-19 had on families, individuals and community’s mental health. Much attention should be put on high-risk groups such as students, people who have already had underlying mental health illnesses and people who have gone through domestic violence as discussed above.


1.Women’s experiences of Domestic Violence and Abuse – Impact of domestic violence and abuse on women’s mental health. (2019). Retrieved 28 March 2021, from

2.Impact on Children and Youth. Childwelfare. (2021). Retrieved 28 March 2021, from

3.Joseph, K. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health in Rwanda. Retrieved 28 March 2021, from

4. COVID-19 pandemic against mental health services for genocide survivors during commemoration week in Rwanda. Retrieved 28 March 2021, from