For years, they endured long distances as they climbed steep hills where roads are almost impassable, mainly during the rainy season, to go to the district health centre, 30 kilometres away.
But residents of the rural Kazo Sector in Ngoma District last week unveiled a health post, worth Rwf32m.
The construction of the health post that will serve over 10,000 people was funded by the residents themselves.
The people had decried the long distance, which they said kept them away from their farms because it would take a whole day just to get to hospital and back.
The health centre that serves Kazo is just next to Kibungo District in Ngoma town. The health facility was built through people’s monthly cash contribution and labour.
Edward Muzungu, the District Executive Secretary, commended the move, saying it is something that can encourage any other person or organisation to contribute towards their future causes.
“The district gave them only Rwf6 million. The rest (Rwf 26m) was footed by these amazing residents.
Nobody can hesitate to support such hardworking people…they used stones, sand and trees from their own farms to build the facility,” he said.
The community started the initiative of bringing services closer to themselves by acquiring land, gathering stones, and wood which they used to construct the health post.
Kazo health post now receives more than 100 patients daily at the outpatient facility.
Many women interviewed said the proximity with the health centre forced many turn to traditional herbalists, mainly birth attendants.
According to Jean d’Arc Musingizimana, a resident, those living in very remote villages faced the challenge of accessing health services.
“Some have succumbed to illnesses due to delays in accessing skilled healthcare services. We have seen other women succumb to death from birth-related complications,” she says.
Nipomscene Maniraguha, 45, told The New Times that residents spent much time intervening whenever one of them got seriously sick.
He noted that the facility would help them concentrate on their farms, instead of spending hours and days in distant health centres.
“We used to take days taking treatment in distant Kibungo health facilities. We can now save much time for farm work,” he notes.
“Many pregnant women in the area gave birth at home without the services of qualified nurses or midwives. That posed risks to the life of the mother and the unborn child,” Maniraguha said.
Meanwhile, the health post has motivated thousands of residents to subscribe for the health insurance, locally known as Mutuelle de Santé.
According to hospital officials and local leaders, most districts across the country have been registering poor health insurance due to a number of reasons.
“The health post has had great positive impact, not only in bringing the services closer to people, but also raising awareness as far health insurance is concerned.
Kazo has seen the percentage of people who subscribed to the insurance to 78 per cent. This is the highest in the district,” said Providence Kirenga, the Vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs.