Category Archives: Rwanda Health sector

Butaro Cancer Centre opens new wing

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Health Minister Agnes Binagwaho is joined by Dr Paul Farmer, one of the founding directors of Partners in Health (2R) and Bill and Joyce Cummings (Friends of Rwanda), as well as Burera Mayor Samuel Sembagare (L) to commission the Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Centre on Tuesday. The New Times/Irene Nayebare

Butaro Cancer Centre has opened a new wing to address the increasing demand for medical services at the facility.

The new facility, a brainchild of joint efforts between government and Partners in Health, among other stakeholders, has been named the Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Centre (BACC).

BACC has been constructed to supplement the centre that has taken on more than 1,000 new patients on its oncology programme during its one-year existence.

Addressing officials who graced the opening of the centre, Dr Paul Farmer, a co-founder of Partners in Health, said the only way to reduce cancer deaths is to integrate prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

The Butaro District-based centre is the first to be established in a rural area across East Africa, and according to officials, some of the patients who have been treated there are from other EAC countries.

“Eighty-four per cent of cancer falls more heavily on the poor, especially in low and middle income countries,” Dr Farmer said, defending the decision to set up the facility upcountry.

The Minister for Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, said Rwanda has a plan of having a medical campus at Butaro.

“We avail services to our people and that’s what we are supposed to do but the people also have a task: to use the services given to them; for cancer screening, it’s free of charge,” Dr Binagwaho said.

Saved by cancer centre

Delphine Musabeyezu, a 39-year-old cancer survivor from Rusizi District, said she is grateful to be alive and for having completed her chemotherapy treatment.

“I am grateful to have received my treatment at Butaro Cancer Centre. I encourage other women to opt for early detection as it is the best way treatment can have desired outcome,” Musabeyezu said.

The new centre will have outpatient clinic for oncology consultations for new and existing patients, modern chemotherapy mixing facility for both inpatient oncology unit and outpatient, patient support groups and outpatient IV chemotherapy, among other services.

The cancer ward, a 24-bed facility, regularly has more than 100 per cent bed occupancy.

Observers say the establishment of BACC comes in handy to help ease pressure on the facility.

BACC will decongest the cancer ward and restrict hospitalisation to those patients who require complex or more than one day IV chemotherapy infusions or those who are severely ill.

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Fitch Lifts Outlook on Rwanda on Economic Growth

Fitch Ratings revised Rwanda’s Outlook to ‘Positive’ from ‘Stable’ while simultaneously affirming Rwanda’s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘B’ and short-term foreign currency IDR at ‘B’. Fitch has also affirmed Rwanda’s Country Ceiling at ‘B’.

According to Fitch ratings, the revision of the outlook from stable to positive reflects continuing rapid and inclusive GDP growth in the future, high governance standards relative to regional peers, marked improvements in poverty reduction that attracted high levels of international support, and low public and external debt.

A sovereign rating indicates the rating agency’s opinion of a country’s credit worthiness, or in other words ability and willingness to meet its financial obligations in timely manner. Credit ratings, as opinions on vulnerability to default, do not necessarily imply a specific likelihood of a country’s defaulting on its payment.

This year’s rating is the fourth following the first in 2006, the second in 2010 and the third in 2011. At ‘B’, Rwanda’s rating is within the range of regional countries. A ‘Positive” outlook may imply to a certain extent possibility of rating upgrade provided continued positive trends in factors that triggered the upgrade in the outlook.

Rwanda: Awareness Campaign Lowers New HIV Infections

Several HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns by the government and other stakeholders have recorded significant improvement in the reduction of new HIV infections in the country.

Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Coordinator of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) Care and Treatment Department at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, who disclosed this at a meeting in Kigali on Wednesday, said the campaigns have been effective that the rate of new infections has gone down compared to the previous years meaning that more Rwandans are aware of the dangers of HIV/Aids.

“The rate of new infections was at 25,000 people every year in Rwanda five years ago, but now it has gone down. We have laid a number of strategies to increase awareness and other protective measures against new HIV infections so we are positive that this rate will go down further,” Dr Nsanzimana said. Every hour, two people get infected with HIV in Rwanda, according to Dr Nsanzimana. This is equivalent to 15,000 new HIV Infections every year, according to the doctor, who called upon those already infected to adhere to the instructions of their anti-retroviral treatment.

Functional HIV cure:

An infant was reportedly cured of HIV as announced recently at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta, while French researchers published in the journal PLOS Pathogens that they had been studying 14 people that have been “functionally cured” of HIV.

But Professor Andrew Zolopa, from Stanford University School of Medicine, said those people who got cured had started on their ARVs at least a month after infection and so they started treatment early enough.

Rwanda Gets U.S $50 Million for Poverty Fight

Kigali — The World bank has approved a grant of $50m aimed at bolstering Rwanda’s poverty eradication efforts.

It fund will also see Rwandans cushioned from the full impact of shocks, from unemployment or illness to sudden natural disasters.Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda said that while Rwanda has pushed back poverty dramatically in the past decade, it is still one of the world’s poorest countries.

“We are happy to continue supporting Rwanda’s efforts to manage its social safety net programs more efficiently, so that poor people can withstand economic and climatic shocks better and benefit more from economic growth,” she said

Rwanda has recently seen a record decline in poverty, from 57 percent in 2006 to 45% in 2011. The government has partly attributed this success to its social safety net programs.

In tiny Rwanda, staggering health gains set new standard in Africa

When Agnes Binagwaho began her career as a doctor in the slums of Kigali, Rwanda, in 1996, she worked in one of the most precarious health environments in the world.

The rickety public hospitals that had not been destroyed in the genocide two years before were filled with AIDS patients. But drugs – and doctors – were scarce or nonexistent. Meanwhile, Rwandans were dying in massive numbers from malnutrition, malaria, and tuberculosis.

“We could do nothing for them,” she remembers. “We didn’t have drugs even for ordinary diseases.”

19 years later, however, Rwanda is on pace to become the only country in sub-Saharan Africa to meet all of its health-related Millennium Development Goals, and the tiny pocket of Central Africa has posted some of the world’s most staggering health gains in the past decade, outpacing nations that spend far more per capita on healthcare.

And Dr. Binagwaho, who once stuffed her suitcases full of basic medicinal supplies to take home to Kigali whenever she traveled abroad, is now leading that charge as minister of health.

In an article published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal (BMI), a team of doctors and researchers working in Rwanda laid out the country’s swift rise.

Between 1994 and 2012, they wrote, the country’s life expectancy climbed from 28 years to 56 and the percentage of the population living in poverty dropped from 77.8 percent to 44.9 percent.

In the past decade, deaths from HIV have fallen 78 percent – the single largest decline in the world during that time frame – while tuberculosis mortality has dropped 77 percent, the most significant decrease in Africa.

Of course, the starting point in Rwanda’s climb was a harrowing one: In 1994, between 500,000 and 1 million people — up to 20 percent of its total population — were killed in an ethnic genocide, and some 2 million more fled. Many doctors were among the dead and exiled, and the country, including its healthcare system, was left in tatters.

That year, less than a quarter of Rwandan children received immunizations and more than 1 in 4 children were dead by their fifth birthday.

But in the years that followed, Rwanda became the darling of the international development community, a case study for how a country could use a trans-formative post-conflict period to effectively rebuild its core institutions.

As aid poured in, Rwanda’s new government channeled it into a wide variety of social programs, including healthcare. It rolled out a system of universal health insurance, doled out vaccinations and mosquito nets, and put nearly every AIDS patient on antiretrovirals.

And it did all of this in a place that still faces what the BMI article called “one of the greatest shortages of human resources for health in the world.”

Indeed, the country of 11 million has only 625 doctors in its public hospitals nationwide. But there are also now more than 45,000 “community health workers,” trained to treat basic health issues and help ensure adherence to drug regimens in rural areas far from hospitals and clinics.

As a result of these efforts, the probability that a child will die before the age of five has fallen by 70 percent and is now half the regional average. Some 108,000 people now receive antiretroviral treatment for AIDS – a figure approaching universal access.

But as the healthcare system has lurched forward, it has also come under attack for its heavy reliance on foreign aid: Nearly half of the government’s health budget comes from external funders.

Unlike many other countries, however, Rwanda has used these cash infusions to build institutions, not merely fund programs, says Peter Drobac, the Rwanda director for Partners in Health, a public health nonprofit, and one of the authors of the BMI paper.

Indeed, Rwanda spends no more on health than many of its neighbors, ranking 22nd among 49 sub-Saharan African countries in per capita health spending. That comes to about $55.50 per person each year, which Drobac says is a “tremendous value for money.”

But Rwanda’s government has ambitiously called for the country to be aid-free by 2020, an undertaking that would require a massive pivot away from its current healthcare funding model. In reality, that goal may be decades off, but in the meantime, officials have built the scaffolding for a sturdy healthcare system, Drobac says.

“The lesson we have learned is that you cannot solve every [health] problem at once,” Binagwaho says. “So you do the best with what you have, and you don’t leave anyone out.”