FEATURED: RDF took the lead in rebuilding the health of Genocide survivors

Patients receiving treatment during RDF's Citizen Outreach Program (COP)

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left the country with displaced people and destroyed infrastructure. The new Government of National Unity inherited a health sector that was devastated. Many doctors had been killed and others forced to flee while the health infrastructure was shattered.

The health of Genocide survivors was one of the biggest challenges the Government had to face since many were left with physical injuries and deep psychological wounds. Hope for a new life seemed impossible to many. Many of the health issues the survivors faced couldn’t be treated in the country due to a lack of medical skills. The only alternative was to send them abroad for treatment and reconstruction which was a huge burden to the Government since the budget needed was estimated in billions of Rwandan francs.

Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF), that was trying to cope with new liberation challenges, decided to take the lead and address the health challenges of Genocide survivors. The first step was to raise the medical capacity of its doctors and thus many were sent abroad to improve their skills. Today RDF, through Rwanda Military Hospital, has the highest number of specialist doctors and can offer all the services needed in medical field to benefit Rwandans.

In 2012, after improving the needed skills of medical staff, RDF started the journey of rebuilding the health of Genocide survivors which was still a very big challenge for the country 18 years later. RDF opened its military hospital where Genocide survivors have access to any treatment without waiting for a long time and receive required medicine, paid for by the Genocide survivor’s fund. Following the guidance of the Commander in Chief, HE Paul Kagame, “The battle for liberation did not stop at the victory over tyranny and stopping the Genocide against the Tutsi…”, RDF initiated the Citizen Outreach Program (COP), formerly known as Army Week to cope with the continued liberation struggle to address the many challenges left by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It is in that regard that, part of army week program, RDF through Rwanda Military Hospital launched in 2012 the journey to rebuilding the health of genocide survivors.

Patients receiving treatment during  RDF's Citizen Outreach Program (COP) 

Treating genocide survivors was launched at Munini Hospital in Nyaruguru district and it benefitted over 1,000 survivors in one week and in the same year over 10,000 Genocide survivors were treated. The initiative continued in all other 29 districts of the country and everywhere the military doctors went they offered on site consultations and medicine to any Genocide survivors who needed it. Those who needed more consultation and surgery were transferred to Rwanda. Military Hospital for further examination and a plan for surgery.

The initiative also included transfer abroad for a few survivors in need of services that were not available locally. Since the Citizen Outreach Program started over 100 survivors have been transferred, mostly to India, and received state-of-the-art treatment. Today 25 years later, the health of Genocide survivors has been rebuilt for the better and the future seems brighter. Rebuilding the health of genocide survivor’s initiative lasted 6 years. It benefitted in total 45,000 genocide survivors who were operated on.

 Patients receiving treatment during  RDF's Citizen Outreach Program (COP)

Beneficiaries laud the support  

Some of the beneficiaries who were treated laud the support. Veneranda Uwiringiyimana from Huye, The 59-year old genocide survivor said she had been suffering from too much headache and blood pressure that resulted to eyes problem due to the wounds of Genocide against Tutsi of 1994.

“The army week was initiated in Kabutare and doctors prescribed glasses which I was given free of charge. Now no more headache and blood pressure has reduced. I thank Rwanda military hospital for their work,” she lauded.

The 72 year old Innocent Murekezi from Nyaruguru district said: “During genocide was beaten with bat of gun and big nailed stick. This resulted into stomach problem. During army week doctors consulted me and transferred me to Rwanda military hospital for surgery. Today am well and I thank them so much for the support,” he added