MDG’s progress: Focus on the Health Sector

With only two years to the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Rwanda remains optimistic that it is on track to achieve all the goals by 2015.

With only two years to the realisation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Rwanda remains optimistic that it is on track to achieve all the goals by 2015.

The 2011 MDG Progress report published by the United Nations towards the end of last year, puts Rwanda among the few African countries on track to achieve the MDG’s by 2015. Others are Ethiopia and Mozambique.

“No doubt the continent has made some good progress” but in general, the progress is not enough, especially with some countries doing well as others lag behind,” reads part of the report.

It also indicates huge disparities between rural and urban areas, insisting on the need to strike a balance.

The report for example records an increase in primary school enrolment from 65 percent in 2008 to 83 percent in 2009 and above 90 percent in 2010/11. It however noted that while enrolment has increased, it is not commensurate with the completion rate.

Great improvement has been recorded in gender parity, especially in North Africa while Rwanda and Angola are two African countries that have made a lot of progress on women political representation.

The same report also indicates an overall improvement in reducing child and maternal mortality rates, with Rwanda specifically doing very well in child and maternal health.

It also sounded an alarm on poverty reduction and economic progress, stating that economic growth is not reflected on the ground in general.

The country has been credited for making great strides towards achieving the MDG “particularly in the area of maternal and children’s health” but doubts still linger on whether some of the developing countries will be able to achieve the remaining MDGs.

To Esperance Musabyeyezu, 38, a resident of Musha Sector, Rwamagana District, life could not be better, six years after she checked in for family planning services at Musha Health Centre, overlooking Lake Muhazi in the Eastern Province.

The mother of twosaid that she conceived her first two children without any family planning guidance, while the first born almost claimed her life.

“I was ignorant when I got married 10 years ago. When I conceived my first born, I thought I would easily give birth at home but that wasn’t the case. I almost died in the process. I was rescued by doctors at Kibungo Hospital,” she narrated.

“Three years later, I discovered that I was pregnant again. I hadn’t planned for it. That is I decided to approach health workers to advise me how to go about it”.

She dully delivered her second child safely in hospital and has since embraced family planning services and plans to quit after a third child.

“After my ordeal, I have since taken on a voluntary role to sensitise other women on safe motherhood. I don’t get paid but I have seen the benefits. When I have enough airtime, I call those I know who are pregnant for free advice,” the smiling small scale trader says.

Musabyeyezu’s story is one of the many and it is from such that the government believes it will be right on track come 2015, at least by the look of things.

According to the Minister of Finance John Rwangombwa, Rwanda should be well on course to achieve the remaining goals as the country seems to be maintaining the tempo.

“I don’t have all the figures off-head, but what I can tell you is that we are right on track to achieve almost all of them,” Rwangombwa told The New Times.

Among other areas, Rwanda is well on course to achieve its targets in health, education, governance and environment sustainability, though uncertainties remain in the area of economy, due to the prevailing poor state of the global economy

The Minister of Health, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, believes Rwanda has surpassed some of the targets, particularly in the area of health.

“In health, we have achieved almost all of them and we are beyond targets for some of them, including the fight against Malaria and HIV/AIDS. We are on track.

“For HIV prevention, what we expect now is stabilisation. We are going to ensure that infection rates remain low and also heavily decrease new infections,” the Minister noted.

Binagwaho observed that the government was now focusing on the elimination of malaria to ensure that cases of the killer diseases are minimal.

“For malaria, we are going for elimination. We want to have at least less than 1 percent because you cannot eradicate it completely because we still have mosquitoes out there,” she said.

Binagwaho noted that the government is focusing on providing more mosquito nets and promote hygiene in households while community health workers will be playing a vital role in the process.

According to Dr. Corine Karema, the Director of Malaria Division and Disease Prevention and Control at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), 70 percent of Rwandan children under five and pregnant women sleep under treated nets while 82 percent of Rwanda households own mosquito nets.

“Rwanda has achieved MDGs related to HIV, Malaria & TB. Malaria incidences have reduced by 70 percent from 2005 to 2015. TB treatment success rate is 85 percent for the last four years which was our target for 2015,” Dr. Karema said.

Maternal mortality reduced from750/100,000 in 2005 to 487 in 2010 while target is 268/100000 live births in Rwanda. Children under five years mortality reduced from 152 in 2005 to76 in 2010 while the target in 2015 is 47, indicating that the country is on track for the MDG.

Rwanda also achieved universal access with 94 percent in 2011 for HIV patients receiving ARVs. The UN target is 80 percent. 98 percent of HIV positive pregnant women gave birth to HIV negative children in 2011. The MDG target is 90 percent.

According to Karema, the country is on track to achieve universal access to reproductive health. Modern contraceptive use increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 45 percent in 2010. High coverage for specific vaccine stands at 99.1 percent BCG, 98.8 percent tetravalent and 95 percent for measles

While everything looks right on track, at least in the health segment, Binagwaho admits that some challenges still remain along the way, mainly those to do with communication and reaching out to families at the grassroots levels.

The Health Minister noted that there is need for a steady flow of information between leaders and citizens to enable the government make timely interventions.

Major among these is the issue of nutrition where some families lack basic knowledge for proper nutrition.

She noted that Rwandans also need to mobilise their own resources to support homegrown programmes.

“We cannot rely on the generosity of the world forever,” she pointed out.

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