The Mother, Adolescent and Child Health Week was launched on Tuesday amidst calls for collective efforts to prevent disease outbreaks.
Launching the Week in Gisagara District, Southern Province, the Minister of State in charge of Public Health and Primary Health Care, Dr Anita Asiimwe, said the campaign will involve raising awareness on malaria, malnutrition, birth control, measles, Rubella, and cervical cancer.
She said the campaign, that will involve screening, vaccination, treatment and sensitisation on some of the said ailments, will mostly target mothers, pregnant women, and children under the age of five.
“According to the 2010 National Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) report, out of every 100,000 women giving birth, 340 die doing so. So this is why we must fight to bring an end to this,” Dr Asiimwe said.
She noted that the district was selected for the launch because of the high malaria prevalence rates there.
“A study we carried out last year showed that 10 per cent of malaria cases reported countrywide are from this district,” Dr Asiimwe said.
Asiimwe said the campaign targets about 5 million people countrywide.
She also urged residents to embrace sanitation and use treated mosquito nets so as to prevent malaria.
“I call upon community health workers, local council leaders and media to promote this campaign,” Dr Asiimwe said
Léandre Karekezi, the district mayor, encouraged residents to subscribe to community based health insurance scheme (Mutuelle de sante), which currently covers 73 per cent of the residents of the district.
He noted that the launch of the campaign was timely since cases of malaria were alarming.
“In 2013 alone, over 20,000 children below the age of five, and over 90,000 adults were diagnosed with malaria,” Karekezi said.
He also urged residents to adopt family planning services.
Karekezi said malnutrition was also a serious challenge in the district.
“Out of over 40,000 children screened, 136 were found to be malnourished,” he said.
“People have the right foods, but they have little knowledge about balanced diet,” he added.
Leaon Cuelenaere, the Dutch Ambassador to Rwanda, whose country is backing the campaign, said nutrition is crucial for child development.
“What parents do in the first 1,000 days has an influence on a child’s life,” Cuelenaere said.
Netherlands, through Unicef, has injected about $25 million in the fight against malnutrition in the country over the last four years.
Noala Skinner, the Unicef country representative, said preventable diseases should not claim any child’s life.
“This campaign is a milestone to towards achieving that goal,” he said.
Theresa Niyonsaba, a community health worker attached to Kibirizi Health Centre in Gisagara, said the area is surrounded by swamps, making it a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
She said during the campaign, they will sensitise residents on proper use of mosquito nets to fight malaria.
Daphine Uwamariya, a resident whose daughter was immunised against cervical cancer, said the exercise opened her eyes about the threat of the ailment.
“I have always thought that this disease only affects the rich or people in urban areas. Now that I know the truth, I still don’t have to worry since my child has been immunised against it.”