Competition among communities could enhance health programmes

The Ministry of Health, last week, rewarded hundreds of mothers in Musanze District for their exemplary observance of basic standards aimed at reducing infant and maternal mortality.

The Ministry of Health, last week, rewarded hundreds of mothers in Musanze District for their exemplary observance of basic standards aimed at reducing infant and maternal mortality.

The mothers were given baby sheets, clothes and Chlorine for purification of drinking water. Statistics indicate that at least 66 percent of women in Musanze deliver from health centres, while 32 percent apply family planning.

Although these figures are far from satisfactory, they represent a major improvement in provision of health services in one of the country’s typical rural districts, also long known for polygamous relationships.

While health officials celebrated this success story in the northern part of the country, their colleagues at the Treatment and Research Aids Centre (Trac), in Kigali, were disputing claims in the 2010 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, which suggested there was a resurgence of malaria in the country.

To the contrary, Trac Director said malaria cases had dropped by 40 percent in the year ending. She argued that the WHO report was based on 2009 data, and, therefore, missed the progress registered over the year.

While Trac officials may be right, it is important that, as a country, we critically look into the progress on the ground vis-à-vis what we had hoped to achieve, identify any possible gaps and working to bridge them in the coming year.

Developing and encouraging competition at the grassroots level, would, for instance, serve as a good strategy to help register more success.

Government and other stakeholders could start recognizing local leaders and health volunteers whose communities have registered tremendous progress in various health programmes, both in prevention and cure. 

The initiative to reward exemplary mothers should be extended to other community actors as well.

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