RDF impacting lives in rural communities
The Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) has won accolades for its discipline and selfless contribution to peacekeeping operations globally. But the less talked about side of the force is its benevolent actions aimed at changing people’s lives.
Through its community outreach programmes, the RDF reaches out to the needy, especially those in rural areas, by supporting them in their quest for better livelihood.
Only last week, nearly 16,000 residents in Rusizi and Nyamasheke districts, Western Province, benefited from the force’s medical services through its Army Week initiative.
A team of 212 doctors and nurses, including 26 specialists mainly from the Rwanda Military Hospital, offered specialised medical treatment to local residents who would have only dreamt of receiving such specialised services. The team of specialists comprised orthopaedic surgeons, general surgeons, ophthalmologists, physiotherapists, dermatologists, radiologists and gynaecologists, among others.
Such community outreach programmes are conducted routinely countrywide regularly. But the medical service is just one of RDF’s contributions to the welfare of the population: the force has also intervened in disaster management and prevention, tree planting, support to the disabled, infrastructural development, and so forth.
The RDF conceived the Army Week to conduct a series of practical and high value socio-economic activities that support the community in various developmental initiatives. As part of the activities, the RDF joins hands with communities in various activities aimed at fighting poverty, diseases, ignorance, hunger and lack of shelter for vulnerable members of society.
The idea has cultivated cordial relations and friendship between the RDF and the population.
Such an amicable relationship is often observed whenever RDF soldiers meet with the members of the public, when they work together, share, discuss, sing and dance, akin to members of one family living together. Common objectives, same vision and same targets are some of the results of such actions.
The recent medical outreach programme in Rusizi and Nyamasheke districts is testimony to this, as hundreds of people received free medical treatment, something beyond the reach of many.
The RDF team exceeded its initial target of treating10,000 patients by attending to a total of 15,768 patients in seven days.
Statistics indicate that the team managed to treat between 2,000 and 3,000 people each day.
According to Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, the RDF Spokesperson, the initiative is driven by the force’s commitment to contribute to the national development.
“RDF attaches much importance to the people as it is a people-centred military,” He told The New Times.
The recent community outreach activities were carried out ahead of celebrations to mark Rwanda’s Independence and Liberation day on July 1.
“The RDF preferred to celebrate 50 years of independence and 18 years of liberation by providing healthcare services to our people, because a healthy people is a liberated people, that leads to development and, thus, true independence,” explained Nzabamwita.
Most importantly, the initiative introduced a few years ago, has had a tremendous impact on the lives of the population.
“The spirit of getting solutions from nationals by nationals is a culture that we have inculcated in people and it is evident.
Observe how other institutions have adopted the Army Week Model to implement their programmes,” he added.
Speaking from Gihundwe Hospital, last week, Theo Harerimana, 26, a resident of Rusizi District, hailed what he calls “a great sacrifice” by the force.
“I have been enduring stomach pains for many years but I could not afford specialised treatment on my own”, narrates the young man.
“We get quality healthcare services by only presenting our health insurance cards. This is a sign of the great sacrifice the RDF is making for us to be healthier and live better lives”.
For Laurence Yamuragiye, 42, the ‘Army Week’ serves as an incentive for the population to work hard.
“Whenever I see the RDF offer a helping hand, I feel very pleased and proud. It gives me the courage to work even harder,” she said.