HEAVY CLOUDS hovered over hundreds of busy local farmers who were joined by men and women donning Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) fatigues at Bahimba Marshland.
The RDF soldiers worked with the citizens to grow sweet potatoes in this marshland located in Rulindo District.
From a distance, another group of soldiers, probably taking a rest, are singing patriotic songs underlining their determination to build the nation.
Similarly, in various parts of the country, RDF soldiers are undertaking various activities aimed at supporting the vulnerable and ensure they are healthy and able to contribute to national development.
For instance, at Nyamata hospital, in Bugesera District, a team of RDF medical specialists was last Friday busy attending to patients with different ailments.
This is part of RDF Citizen Outreach Programme that was launched about a fortnight ago and is expected to run until July, whereby soldiers are engaged in different activities in areas like agriculture, health, education, among others.
“It is a very good sign of love by RDF soldiers; after pacifying the country, they are now fighting food insecurity and striving for development of our country,” said Jacqueline Dusabimana, a mother of six in Mbogo Sector in Rulindo District.
In this marshland, RDF soldiers from the 503 Infantry Brigade are working with local farmers to plant sweet potatoes which are rich in vitamin A.
The marshland covers 15 hectares.
On the health front, RDF soldiers are treating different ailments and their activities involve major and minor surgeries. This year, the main focus is on dental, oral and visual ailments, orthopedics and pediatric cases, among others.
Cassien Karekezi, who suffered from inguinal hernia five years after he was operated on at Nyamata hospital in Bugesera District, was one of the beneficiaries of this year’s RDF Citizen Outreach Programme, previously known as ‘Army Week’.
“I have been suffering for all these years, I had a swollen abscess around my sexual organ and endured excruciating pain, especially whenever I coughed. I have been to different medical facilities but the pain would not go away.
“But RDF medical specialists I found here operated on me and the abscess is no more. Though I still feel pain, I am optimistic that I will get well soon,” he said.
Karekezi, 62, a father of five, expressed optimism that life was going to change since he will now save money he previously used to spend on treatment and use it in other things.
“I am also optimistic that I will soon start working,” he said.
An inguinal hernia occurs when a tissue, such as part of the intestine, protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal muscles. The resulting bulge can be painful, especially when you cough, bend over or lift a heavy object.
Official figures indicate that by Friday last week, over 9,400 patients had been treated countrywide under the RDF Citizen Outreach Programme, while about 11,200 men had been circumcised, with 795 others undertaking HIV voluntary counseling and testing.
The campaign also saw rehabilitation of 135 housing units (belonging to the vulnerable), as well as construction of 356 toilets to improve sanitation, according to official figures.
In agriculture, about 283 hectares have been cleared for planting of crops like Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and vegetables. Other activities include fighting banana weevil, locally known as kirabiranya.
Officials also said that an estimated 113,000 patients will receive free medical care in orthopedics, dental, ophthalmology, gynecology, and ear nose and throat (ENT) in the coming months.
RDF also targets to construct 1,961 houses for the disadvantaged, while 121 classrooms and school latrines will be also constructed, as well as 4,511ha of land cultivated during this year’s outreach campaign.