Kigali is the capital and largest city in Rwanda. Kigali has a population of nearly 1 million people, and is geographically centrally located within the country of Rwanda. Kigali suffers the country's highest rate of HIV and AIDS infection, with more than 7% of the population infected. A large number of children in Kigali, and in other urban areas of Rwanda, are born HIV-positive, acquiring the disease from their mothers, and many more children have lost one or both parents to the disease. The lack of access to medical care perpetuates the cycle of HIV and AIDS in Kigali, where most of its citizens are extremely poor, living in squalid slums in conditions of great suffering and need.

Rwanda Urban Region

The Location


The Population


The Religion

Roman Catholicism

The Weather

  • With more than 230,000 people, Kigali, located in the center of the country, is the largest city in Rwanda. About 19 percent of Rwanda’s population lives in urban areas. Rwanda Busy Street with Mountains in the Background
  • Children pray at a Compassion center in Rwanda. Knowing and following God are emphasized in Compassion’s curriculum, which nurtures children, helping them become all they can be. Rwanda Children Praying in Church
  • Crowded, poorly constructed neighborhoods are common in cities. Sanitation is a major problem, and potable water is difficult to find in such conditions. Rwanda Boys on Road Near Mud Homes
  • Registered children enjoy Compassion workers and the pastor of the Methodist church hosting Gikondo Student Center, in Kigali. Rwanda Children Outside Their Center
  • Partnership Facilitator Kwizera Ernest visits a center, surrounded by some of his biggest fans. Ernest, a facilitator for three years, assists at 12 Compassion centers, mainly in Kigali. Rwanda Children in Blue School Uniforms
  • A tutor uses teaching aids from Compassion’s curriculum to show children the importance of hygiene and water sanitation. Rwanda Children Participating in Class

Overview: Urban Rwanda

About 18 percent of Rwandans — 1.9 million people — live in the country’s urban centers, the largest of which is Kigali, the capital city. Located in the center of Rwanda, Kigali is home to 600,000 people, most of whom are extremely poor, living in squalid slums in conditions of great suffering and need.

The citizens of Rwanda’s urban centers represent a wide variety of ethnicities, cultures and languages. Many have migrated to these centers from the neighboring countries of Uganda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape the civil conflicts that plague this region of Africa.

In addition to poverty, Rwanda’s urban citizens deal with a high rate of HIV and AIDS. With a more than 7 percent infection rate, Kigali suffers the country’s highest levels of HIV and AIDS. As a result, a large number of children are born HIV-positive, acquiring the disease from their mothers, and many more have lost one or both parents to the disease.

Compassion combats HIV and AIDS throughout Rwanda with a program of Bible-based prevention education and special benefits for sponsored children and their families affected by the disease.


Culture Corner

Rwanda Culture


Make this easy, traditional Rwandan dish.


  • 2 cups dried green split peas, pre-soaked
  • 4 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 2 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp. salt


In a large pot, use enough water to cover the peas and cook until tender, about 1 ½ hours.

Lay the bananas whole on top of the peas without mixing.

Continue to cook for 10 minutes until the bananas are soft, adding water as needed to prevent the peas from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet and brown the onions.

With a slotted spoon, remove the bananas and peas from the pot and add to the onions.

Sprinkle in the salt, and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring gently but constantly. Serve hot.


Life in Urban Rwanda

Rwanda is near the equator, but its high elevation gives the country a temperate tropical climate, with average daily temperatures ranging from 54 to 81 degrees. Rainy seasons are February through May and October through December.

Rwandans in urban areas typically make a living by selling produce in markets or on roadsides since renting a shop is very expensive. Others earn money by washing clothes, making the equivalent of about U.S.$1.64 per day. Poorly built homes and lack of sanitation are big problems in cities, and many families live in slums. Common illnesses include malaria, typhoid, worms and skin diseases, and HIV and AIDS is an increasing problem in towns and border areas. Urban teens are often tempted to drop out of school to do drugs or take menial jobs.

Children at Home

The houses of families living in Rwanda’s urban areas are crowded, ramshackle buildings often made of mud and whatever other scrap material can be found. These homes provide little protection from the elements, especially during the rainy season. Half of all urban families have no access to adequate sanitation, and some rely on a river or other unsafe source of water for drinking, bathing and other household uses.


Community Issues and Concerns Community in Rwanda

In addition to inferior housing, city-dwelling families in Rwanda suffer the health threats of poor sanitation. Open, running sewage and a lack of garbage collection services result in chronic illness, an especially dire situation for young children, for whom a case of diarrhea can be life-threatening. Stagnant pools of water, fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes, lead to frequent outbreaks of malaria.

Malnutrition is common for children in the city slums, where many families can afford only one meal a day. The typical income is just $2 per day. About two-thirds of adults are unemployed, unable to provide for even the most basic needs of their families, which average four to six members. When work is available, it is usually low-paying, temporary daily labor or street vending.

The desperation of people living in Rwanda’s urban slums also leads to rampant drug addiction, prostitution, gang activity and violent crime.

Local Needs and Challenges

Pray for more families to own their own homes. Rent is very expensive, so tenants often work for their landlords as farmers, which means they have less time to farm for their own families. Parents who cannot afford rent move frequently, and this can negatively affect their children’s performance at school and the Compassion-assisted center. Pray also for income-generating opportunities that will improve people’s standard of living, and for Rwandan children around the country to be better protected against poverty.


Schools and Education Education in Rwanda

The government’s provision of primary education means that most children are able to attend some school. The school year starts in January and comprises three terms, ending in October. Despite the government’s commitment to provide education to all children, classrooms are typically poorly equipped and crowded, with one teacher to every 50 students. Sadly, among Rwanda’s population, only 70 percent of those age 15 and over are able to read or write. And fewer women than men are literate.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Compassion serves children in Rwanda’s urban areas through local, church-based child development centers. These centers are havens of love and learning for registered children. Here, children receive nutritious meals, hygiene training, and tutoring to attain standard academic milestones. They are also encouraged to develop their talents and abilities. Most important, children learn about God’s love and the gift of salvation in Christ.


Working Through the Local Church

Compassion International and the local church work together to free children from poverty and make disciples. The church is crucial in implementing Compassion’s holistic child development programs, including using age-appropriate curriculums that address spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical needs. Teachers use games, music, drama and other methods to share the gospel with children who are eager to learn about Christ’s life and love for them. Proper hygiene and sanitation methods are taught, and youths share the information with their families. Children also receive vital academic support and life-skills training. In urban areas, where youths make up about half the congregations, Compassion ministers to them through seminars on subjects such as purity, peer pressure and dating.

How Compassion Works in Rwanda Compassion in Rwanda

Compassion’s work in Rwanda began in 1979. Currently, more than 63,500 children participate in 235 child development centers. Compassion and its church partners work to help provide Rwandan children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all that God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

The Partnership Facilitator is the key link between Compassion and the local church. The facilitator shares Compassion’s vision with church partners and oversees its implementation at centers. Thirty-year-old Kwizera Ernest, for example, strives to ensure a respectful and trusting relationship with the church and families so that all involved learn from one another.

Ernest travels mostly by motorcycle taxi to reach his centers. He is passionate about children and wants to give back to the community because he himself was helped during hard times as a child. He lost his father when he was 7 and says, “I faced many challenges growing up, and I do not wish to see anyone face the same challenges I did.”


Prayer Requests

  • Pray for the health of children living in hazardous and unsanitary conditions in Rwanda’s cities.
  • Pray for the protection of children from drug abuse, violence, and other dangerous influences in Rwanda’s cities.
  • Pray for the parents and caregivers of children who need steady employment.
  • Pray that assisted children will advance academically.
  • Pray for Compassion center staff members, who diligently strive to meet the needs of the children in their care.