US, Rwanda officials discuss public health

The Minister for Health, Diane Gashumba, meets the US Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, in Kigali yesterday. Azar and his delegation commended Rwanda’s gains in the health sector in recent years. / Courtesy

The United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, has praised Rwanda’s achievements in the fight against HIV, malaria, and infant mortality.

Secretary Azar made the remarks yesterday in Kigali.

He is leading a U.S delegation on a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to learn about the situation on the ground, meet with national and international counterparts, as well as reiterate the U.S’ commitment to bringing the Ebola outbreak in the region to an end.

“I want to commend Rwanda for its overall public health accomplishments by achieving tremendous progress on important Millennium Development Goals pertaining to Infant and Maternal Health, HIV, and Malaria,” he said during a meeting with Dr. Diane Gashumba, Rwanda’s Minister for Health.

Azar speaks after the meeting with Dr. Gashumba (right) in Kigali on September 15, 2019. / Courtesy

For more than a decade, Rwanda has kept the prevalence of HIV at 3 percent.

Infant mortality declined from 86 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 32 in 2014-15, according to the ministry. During the same period, under-5 mortalities sharply declined from 152 to 50 deaths per 1,000 live births.

There has also been an estimated reduction in the country’s malaria burden with 430,000 fewer cases recorded in 2017 than in 2016, according to the World Health Organisation report released last year.

These achievements are attributed to several factors, including the outstanding role played by Community Health Workers, with information from Rwanda Biomedical Centre indicating that more than 50 percent of malaria cases are treated by Community Health Workers.

Malaria treatment is given free of charge to the poorest people (Ubudehe 1 and 2) at the community level, a key factor that has greatly contributed to increased services seeking.

Dr. Gashumba thanked the US government for its support to Rwanda as the country is building a strong health system from the community level up to the central level,

“It is very meaningful to us and has contributed to the high level of preparedness regarding Ebola,” she said.

Meanwhile, Secretary Azar, on Saturday visited in Butembo, DRC, where he toured an Ebola treatment center near the center of the outbreak.

Together with a delegation, he was leading, they observed the detection, infection prevention, and control measures; and spoke to the healthcare providers about how they provide care for patients, and also witnessed patients being successfully discharged from the center.

“The U.S.A. is here for you not just for Ebola, but also healthcare after Ebola,” he told the community meeting.

“The U.S. recognizes that health challenges in the DRC extend past Ebola and also supports efforts to fight measles, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, cholera, and other diseases.”

The delegation also heard from officials and healthcare workers about the challenges they face in providing care due to mistrust and the conflict in the region. 

Azar shared his gratitude for the hard work and dedication all personnel has shown in the face of this health crisis.

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