What should be prioritised in the health sector in 2017?

2016 has seen enormous developments in the health sector. Various initiatives and campaigns have been held in the fight against numerous infectious and non-communicable diseases in the country. However, much remains to be done in order for Rwanda to have healthier citizens. Healthy Times’ Donah Mbabazi spoke to various stakeholders in the health sector on what they think should be the areas of concern for 2017.

Dr Diane Gashumba, Minister for Health:

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Dr. Gashumba

We are going to focus on strengthening quality of healthcare, work closely with the Ministry of Education and University of Rwanda to improve the quality of education for health providers and complement this with mentorship once people start in health facilities.

We will also focus on customer care and health promotion through strong and continuous communication towards prevention of communicable and non-communicable diseases.

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Jeanette Nyirabahizi, Resident of Ryamanyana, Eastern Province:

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Nyirabahizi

I think the government should strengthen its Girinka programme. This will help boost the levels of nutrition, especially for people who live in the rural areas.

This programme will most certainly help boost nutrition levels of children and the elderly.

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Etienne Hakizimana, Prevention and Testing Coordinator, AIDS HealthCare Foundation (AHF) – Rwanda:

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Hakizimana

More should be done to fight HIV because regardless of the progress a lot still needs to be done.

We will continue with the sensitisation for people to practise safe sex and abstinence.

Those who are infected will be encouraged to go for treatment and we also plan on tackling the issue of stigma so that the people living positively are given enough support.

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Manasseh Gihana Wandera, Executive Director Society for Family Health Rwanda:

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Gihana Wandera

2017 is an exciting year for us and we plan on handling areas on malaria, nutrition, HIV and family planning.

Around nutrition, we have a very wonderful product called Kuza Neza, a micronutrient powder for children. It’s going to be implemented countrywide this year. For malaria, we are coming in with a different product, a lotion people can use to repel mosquitoes and this can help before bed.

With HIV prevention, we are going to continue sensitising, mobilising and educating people about this scourge. We anticipate distributing about 20 million condoms and also intend to do a lot of testing and counselling.

On the side of family planning, we know there is still a big gap of unmet need so we want to go out and get the message clearly heard so that people get to know the advantages of planned parenting.

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Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, Head of HIV, STI and Other Blood Borne Infections Division, Rwanda Bio Medical Centre:

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Dr. Nsanzimana

Hepatitis needs much more attention because it’s not very well known by the public like HIV.

People need to know that early check-ups are essential and they also need to know important facts like a delay in treatment of this disease can only worsen the condition and lessen chances of successful treatment.

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Dr Fidel Rubagumya, Founder and board chair at Rwanda Children’s Cancer and an oncologist:

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Dr. Rubagumya

I think making sure that most Rwandans are insured and able to access the best care possible is what we should focus on in 2017.

Also making sure that healthcare professionals are retained in the clinical practice so that training nurses, pharmacists, doctors and other paramedics see them practising what they are training them to do.

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Ronald Mutabazi Gakuba, Student, University of Rwanda:

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Mutabazi Gakuba

I think the focus should be put on family planning.

This is still an issue more especially for families living in rural areas, they are still finding it difficult to access these services, plus sensitisation should be done to bring men on board as some forbid their wives from using family planning.

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Alphonse Mbarushimana: President Rwanda Pharmaceutical Students Association:

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Mbarushimana

Technology should be emphasised on more. Last year progress was made, for instance, with the introduction of drones to transport medical supplies, but still, more needs to be done.

For example, online prescription helps in making service delivery swift, we can also introduce ways of how doctors can follow up on their patients they have attended too and I think this can help as well.

The other aspect is non-communicable diseases; these can be dangerous and though they cannot be transmitted, people still need to know ways of preventing them by, for instance eating right.

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Jackline Mukabalisa, Office Administrator:

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Mukabalisa

I think the focus should be put on dealing with Hepatitis.

It is becoming more deadly, yet it can easily be spread.

More efforts should be invested in sensitising people on how it is spread and more so how it can be prevented.