Rwanda needs more pediatricians – experts

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Mothers wait for service at Busanza Health centre in Kanombe. Timothy Kisambira.

Rwanda pediatric association, an umbrella for pediatricians in the country, says there is need for more pediatricians in the country to help improve children’s health.

The medics made the call yesterday in Kigali during their second scientific conference under the theme, “Updates on pediatrics in Rwanda.”

The two-day conference is aimed at sharing latest data on achievements within the paediatric and neonatal field, the main challenges that the country still faces in the area, and possible solutions.

The conference also looks to provide clinicians with the latest information on current issues in paediatrics in the country.

It will offer an opportunity to advance knowledge, skills, and quality in pediatric care (to improve quality of pediatric care in Rwanda using local data, achievements and updated information).

Information from the association shows that there are 71 pediatricians in the country.

Dr Lisine Tuyisenge, a pediatrician at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), said there has been an increase in the number of pediatricians in the country, yet they are still not enough compared to the population of children.

“About four years back, we were very few. We were less than 30 in the whole country. Now we are 71, and this is a great step forward. However, this number is not enough for us to cover the whole of Rwanda and treat every child. There is need for more pediatricians,” she said.

The New Times was not able to immediately establish the exact number of pediatricians that the country needs.

According to Tuyisenge, the response of parents towards treating their children has not yet reached desired levels.

“We have a big problem of parents who delay to bring children for treatment. So, you find that children are brought when they are very sick. This means that we need to put in more efforts to ensure parents know the time to bring their children for treatment, and which diseases are serious for children, so that we shall be able to reduce child deaths,” she said.

Dr Agnes Binagwaho, the chair of Rwandan Pediatric Association, urged her counterparts about their responsibility towards supporting the education of more medics in the country to have more pediatric experts.

“We need more specialised nurses, pediatric oncologists, and other specialists in children health matters so as to curb unnecessary children deaths,” she said.

She called for improved nutrition among pregnant women to enable them produce healthy children, provision of reproductive health information to teenagers to avoid teenage pregnancies, as well as supporting them in case they get pregnant.

Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister for Health, highlighted Rwanda’s achievements in reducing child mortality rates, increased immunisation coverage for children, but observed that there is still more to be done.

She urged women to visit a health centre at least four times during pregnancy for checkup. She also called for women to go to health centres early when the time of delivery reaches.

According to latest Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey, under-five mortality in Rwanda reduced from 152 in 2005 to 50 deaths per 1000 live births in 2015.

During the same period, infant mortality followed the same trends, decreasing from 86 to 32 per 1000 live births.

There has also been a decrease in maternal mortality ratio (MMR) over the last fifteen years, dropping from 1071 in 2000 to 210 per 100,000 live births in 2015.

This made Rwanda one of the few African countries that achieved MDG 4 and 5 that were related to maternal and child health.

In addition, more than 98 per cent of children are vaccinated against: tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, neonatal tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza type b, measles, streptococcus pneumonia, rotavirus infections and rubella.

Rwanda was the first country in Africa to introduce human papilloma vaccine (HPV), with 97 per cent coverage rate. Young adolescent girls of 12 years of age are protected from cervical cancer while pregnant women are protected from tetanus.

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