KIGALI - The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, has revealed that Rwanda has 60,000 health workers deployed in all villages across the country.
She made the remarks while officiating at the first International conference on community health that kicked off yesterday.
The conference focuses on how interventions addressing the health of the community play a role in strengthening the broader health system.
“So far, Rwanda has 60,000 community health works in Rwanda who were elected at the village level and are answerable to the community, but the Ministry of Health has equipped them with skills to give some services like treating fever, malaria, HIV/Aids counselling and following up pregnant mothers,” said Binagwaho.
The health workers focus on four aspects of health service delivery including curative, preventive, promotional and rehabilitative.
“With these services, the population is treated earlier, prevent many diseases and we gain welfare for our population,” said the Permanent Secretary.
She however said that “More than 80% of our population live in rural areas and the majority walk for over three hours to the nearest health facility, so one of the ways to break the geographical access to health care is to reinforce the community services.”
Binagwaho added that the government offers a full package of healthcare to the people, including services and health infrastructure like hospitals and training more health professionals.
She also noted that Rwanda has long recognized the importance of decentralizing healthcare delivery down to the community level and that since 1995, the Ministry of Health has implemented community health interventions in order to improve the quality and equity of healthcare for rural populations.
Florence Mukantaganda, a community health worker from Kabuye Health Centre said that although they have contributed a lot to improve the health of the people; there is still need to bridge the trust gap between the people and the Community Health Workers.
“Some of the challenges we face is parents who delay to report cases of sick children and this is because some of them haven’t learnt to trust in us,” she said.
“We have acquired skills through various trainings but we still need more skills to make sure that we don’t face any challenges in the course of our work,” said Mukantaganda.
She however added they are not paid since they are volunteers.
“We are committed to what we do and we enjoy it. We only get some small incentives when there are nation-wide campaigns like immunization,” she said.
The first international conference on community health which drew delegates from over 10 countries seeks to forward the agenda of the role of community health in strengthening health systems by exploring ways that will help countries reach their health and development goals.
The four-day conference is attended by experts from government policy makers, UN Agencies, International and National NGOs, as well as academic scholars and researchers. They are discussing the latest topics in community health system focusing on strategies, experiences and techniques with regards to the theme of the conference.