As 2009 comes to an end, the Ministry of Health, together with its stakeholders, has taken significant strides towards ensuring equitable health services to Rwandans in different categories.
According to officials, efforts to promote maternal and child health, prevention and treatment of diseases and increasing citizens’ access to healthcare successfully progressed over the past twelve months.
Since the beginning of the year, the ministry together with partners pulled off collective measures that aimed at encouraging mothers to deliver in health facilities.
This purposely falls under the government’s goal of curbing maternal and infant mortality rates.
One of the strategies, a pilot project dubbed “welcome baby baskets”, was launched under Intra Health Twubakane in Nyaruguru District to reward 219 families who sought antenatal services.
The baskets were awarded by the Health Minister, Dr. Richard Sezibera who emphasized the need for women to follow the advice of healthcare providers by opting for family planning to improve their health and that of their children.
Statistics show that the number of women delivering in hospitals had risen from 45 percent in 2007 to 64.2 percent in 2008. In a bid to increase the figures, the government had by the end of the year procured dozens of ambulances for health facilities.
This year alone, 60 have been acquired; state-of-the-art maternity equipment has also been installed in 415 health centres and 40 district hospitals.
Sezibera notes that such interventions aim at ensuring that all women countrywide have safe child deliveries.
Family planning services have also been availed to all through government hospitals and health centres which offer these services at no cost.
During the course of this year, 60 secondary health posts were also been set up to meet this need in places where government health facilities are unreachable.
With the same goal of improving child health, the government launched a national fight against malnutrition among children under the age of five in May this year. This initiative was an appeal by President Paul Kagame after his visit to Kirehe Hospital where he found a big number of malnourished patients.
The campaign basically entailed mass sensitization and a door-to-door surveys where health workers identified and treated malnourished children while those in dire condition were admitted to district hospitals.
Four months later, over 10,000 children who had been admitted with acute malnutrition had recovered fully and gone back to their communities.
Health officials like the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, insist that the challenge now is to ensure that the children feed correctly and no child ever suffers from this condition again.
In a bid to make this a reality, the ministry together with other ministries like, that of local government, gender and family promotion and agriculture set out strategic measures to follow up on this problem which has left about 45 percent of the country’s children stunted.
As regards curbing nutritional issues for both adults and children, community based health workers will be key in this cause.
They will include local officials whose work will be evaluated through performance-based contracts (Imihigo).
April was characterized by a milestone achievement of introducing the national pneumococcal immunization programme.
In a colourful ceremony that was held at Ruhuha Health Centre, Eastern Province, one month old Clementine Byukusenge received the first dose of the vaccine that guarantees her immunity against pneumococcal disease, a leading preventable killer of children under five.
“This is a proud day for Rwanda and we are glad to have been the first nation in sub-Saharan Africa to introduce this vaccine. We are committed to improving the health of our children so that we raise stronger generations for tomorrow,” Sezibera told The New Times.
According to the Head of the Expanded Programme on Immunization, Dr. Fidele Ngabo, the vaccine which is set to significantly curb child mortality rates, has reached over 395,000 children countrywide. Pneumococcal vaccines will reduce child mortality by 16 percent.
During the course of the year, military medics led by Major John Nkurikiye successfully carried out the first cornea transplant at King Faisal Hospital in Kigali.
The achievement came during the Army Week, when military officials dedicate time to give back to community.
35 other patients received the same services from the team of ophthalmologists within three days.
After years of focusing mainly on adults as regards HIV/AIDS services, the Ministry of Health set up a special centre in Kibagabaga hospital in August to meet the needs of children affected and infected by the epidemic.
Diane Mukasahaha, a Palliative Officer at the centre, explained that through this facility, special counselling services for children will be conducted, including breaking the news on the reality of HIV to such vulnerable children.
According to current statistics from the National AIDS Control Commission (CNLS), about 200,000 children and adults are infected with HIV/AIDS and officials note that the centre comes in handy to meet the growing demand for such children.
In the month of September, Rwanda hosted the 59th Session of the World Health Organization Regional Summit. Over 400 delegates from across the continent including the WHO Director General, Dr. Margret Chan, convened for the high profile meet.
During the five-day meeting, officials established ways of dealing with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis – a growing threat to the region, progress and new measures regarding HIV transmission and treatment, as well as managing the current H1N1 influenza A.
The High Representative of the Africa AIDS Vaccine Programme, Mrs. Jeannette Kagame, called on African governments to be more supportive of this initiative that aims at finding a preventative measure against the pandemic.
She highlighted that it is imperative to own this process and that Africans must truly begin to set their own agenda in the fight against HIV/ AIDS.
Officials also brainstormed on the country that will host the vaccine centre.
At the same conference, Kagame challenged African leaders to concentrate on solutions that will promote health.
On October 7, the country was hit by the influenza A, H1N1, commonly known as Swine Flu. Having been earlier equipped with countrywide sentinel sites, Tamiflu doses that can treat over 14,000 cases and a quick response team, the cases that have been increasing over time have finally dropped.
In 2009, two maternal and child health weeks have also been held. During this period, children countrywide have been immunized against measles, pregnant and lactating mothers acquired Vitamin A supplements and de-worming tablets for children.
In relation to the HIV/AIDS battle which continues year after year, CNLS has adopted a strong campaign strategy on behavioural change towards condom use.
Progress has also been highlighted in the country’s battle against malaria.
According to statistics from the ministry, this year alone, 550,000 mosquito nets were distributed under the malaria home-based management system specifically for children under five.
During the course of this year, 90 percent of children with malaria-related problems got access to medication from community based health workers. Indoor residual spraying also covered 311,771 households in the 10 malaria prone districts.
As per this year, the number of citizens under the national medical insurance scheme (Mutuelle de Sante) stands at 86 percent compared to the 7 percent figure of 2003.
6 percent are under other programmes such as RAMA, MMI, CORAR and SORAS.
Health officials say that this is also responsible for the increased access to medical services.