When local heroes join a country to combat a health threat

2020 was a year of prosperity for many citizens across the globe and a special year for Rwanda, with the realization of its Vision 2020 and an invitation to dream bigger.

The world had never included a deadly virus in its planning and the coronavirus has erupted first as a health outbreak which quickly became a global pandemic.

 

This virus has not only taken lives, it has also reshuffled the entire way the world is organized and functions. While different global health organizations have always advocated for tackling the social determinants of health, Covid-19 has first proven to be a disease for all, which pulled a global focus on its prevention and investments in potential treatments.

 

However, as months pass, Covid-19 is now ravaging the most under-resourced communities on a faster scale. In Sub-Saharan Africa the Covid-19 related effects are most sensed by the poor, the women, the children, and the youth while minority communities are hardly touched in western countries; with dramatic losses observed in the United States of America.

 

At various country levels, this pandemic was accelerated by our social and health structures and infrastructures. We’ve observed that its management can positively be influenced by a country’s leadership.

Rwanda has been one of the countries where, outstandingly, the leadership, the government agencies, and the communities jointly worked hand in hand as one family, one community, one nation to halter the speed of contamination right after the registration of the first case.

As the country was focused on minimizing life losses with an exceptional coordination, the authorities also lowered a public panic that could naturally rise in moments of uncertainty as the Covid-19 anxiety picked.

This pandemic had also put light on the tremendous efforts of the local heroes, who, in their graceful manner, were putting together all the possible resources to support the Rwandan communities affected by the pandemic.

Among them is Solid’Africa, a female-led local organization that strives to help vulnerable patients in public hospitals. Through five programs, the organization provides food, hygienic products and other services with the goal to accelerate patient’s recovery process, preserve patient’s dignity, and promote equity.

Isabelle Kamaliza, president and founder of Solid’Africa, and her team, have for the last 10 years been tirelessly advocating and providing food to the most vulnerable patients in the public hospitals with the noble aim of increasing patient recovery time. Solid’Africa believes that Food Can Heal.

They passionately prepare every single meal with a sense of care, a sense of dignity, and a sense of healing.

Covid-19 has also stressed the truly essential services needed for a country to survive and function and we’ve seen great service providers combatting for our communities to have access to the basic supplies during the total lockdown.

Locally-led initiatives such as Solid’Africa have also acted at the frontline of care provision by supplying food professionally prepared in the first industrial kitchen in the country.

While most of community members were staying at home to observe health guidelines, Solid’Africa’s team has selflessly dedicated their days cooking and feeding all patients in four public hospitals in Kigali namely, CHUK, Muhima, Kibagabaga, and Masaka hospitals, with the aim of serving 2,400 healthy and balanced meals to 800 patients a day.

Most of the patients they assist are either from rural areas or do not have the means to afford healthy meals while hospitalized.

Although families could visit their patients during the lockdown, there was a need for public health facilities to put in place strict measures to prevent that Covid-19 becomes a co-morbidity factor for patients whose immune system was already weakened by other illnesses and providing healthy food from a partner like Solid’Africa contributed to that positive outcome.

 These times have also highlighted the urgent need to redirect global funding toward local actors with the means to deeply reach the most underprivileged beneficiaries.

The Segal Family Foundation (SFF) is one of the private funders who intimately believes that local innovators hold the key in designing sometimes simple but quite successful solutions to the most pressing community needs.

SFF’s partnership with and support to local organizations like Solid’Africa is proving to be one of effective ways to ignite lasting social change.

Health experts invite countries to remain extremely vigilant and predict a potential second wave of Covid-19 in the coming months. As development stakeholders are resiliently pivoting to adapt to this new normal, actors like SFF are relentlessly advocating for community-centric programs where fighting for fairness becomes the essence of resource allocation.

The role of the government and public health sector are indisputably imperative to prevent and treat the coronavirus so is the part of social players who are invested in building equitable and resilient communities.

According to Isabelle Kamariza, in order to effectively fight the pandemic and its consequences, “we all need to do our part and go beyond.  

I just two weeks right after the lockdown, we [Solid’Africa] had to double the number of patients we were serving and this showed us how adaptability is key to the work that local NGOs as ourselves are doing on the ground every day.”

Caroline Numuhire is a Rwandan writer with a degree in agriculture sciences with a major in rural development and agribusiness from the University of Rwanda and Master of Science in global health delivery from the University of Global Health Equity.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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