The Government of Rwanda is committed to ensuring that access to high quality healthcare remains a right and not a privilege for citizens, President Paul Kagame has said.
Kagame, presently on a visit to the US, was on Thursday addressing leading researchers in the faculty of health at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).
“There is one resource you can only impoverish by choice and that is people. If we invest correctly in people, we are as well off as anyone else in the world. It all starts with commitment to avail services to our people,” a statement from the Office of the President quoted him as saying.
Observing that 17 per cent of Rwanda’s national budget is dedicated to health, the President explained that providing quality health services remains a key priority for his government.
During the discussion, Kagame shared Rwanda’s achievements in the health sector over the years, including the “child immunisation rate which is currently at 95 per cent, universal access to anti-retroviral drugs, the continuous decrease of maternal and child mortality and the universal health coverage for Rwandan citizens”.
He emphasised the importance of involving citizens in the progress of the health sector, and singled out the contribution of the country’s community health workers who have played a key role in the sector’s recent achievements.
These volunteers helped decrease malaria rate by 85 per cent between 2003 and 2013.
Also, with more than 80 per cent coverage rate, a nationwide mutual public health scheme, known as Mutuelle de Sante has greatly eased access to health services.
However, the President said the country continued to face the challenge of capacity in the sector, and invited the University of California San Francisco to partner with Rwanda in its bid to address the issue.
Several American Universities and philanthropists are currently partnering with Rwanda in the field of health, including in efforts to build a strong local skills base in the sector over the next couple of years.
The Executive Director of UCSF Global Health Sciences, Jaime Sepulveda, described as “unique” Rwanda’s progress in recent years. “Rwanda is one of the only countries on track to achieve MDG goals. There is no other country in the world that has achieved so much in such a short time.”
Speaking on behalf of the faculty, Founding Executive Director of Global Health Sciences and renowned Eritrean doctor, Dr. Haile Debas, said Rwanda was a model in development. “You have shown the world how a developing African country can become an emerging economy. As an African, I am proud and inspired by your enlightened leadership which convinces me that Africa has a bright future.”
UCSF Global Health Sciences says it is “dedicated to improving health and reducing the burden of disease in the world’s most vulnerable populations”. It works with partners around the world to achieve these objectives.
The roundtable discussion also served as an opportunity for the faculty present to share recent discoveries in the field of prevention of maternal mortality and vaccine preservation.
Dr. Shashi Dhar Buluswar, Executive Director of LBNL Institute of Globally Transformative Technologies, presented portable solar powered fridge aimed at ensuring vaccine preservation at the right temperature aimed at ensuring wider immunization, according to the statement.
Prof. Suellen Miller presented a portable anti-shock garment for hemorrhage that has helped decrease maternal mortality by reducing hemorrhages following child birth.
Later in the day, President Kagame met with leading investors in the field of information technology from Sillicon Valley.