Inflammation and stories on Rwanda

Investment in RwandaThe commonly held belief on Chinese investment in African countries is that China is only interested in exploiting the continent for its mineral resources and establishing a sycophantic relationship with some of the world’s most vulnerable developing nations. However, the investment in Rwanda makes little sense if short term profit and influence are the country’s only motives. Rwanda lacks the natural resources that its neighbors have. Furthermore, its population will only yield a small number of consumers of Chinese goods in the future. Motivations aside, China’s investment is helping to develop the country in ways that will positively impact the lives of the country’s poor.

Rwanda’s Rapidly Improving Infrastructure

The investment in Rwanda has had no bigger impact than in the area of infrastructure with projects that include the construction of hotels, schools, hospitals and multi-thousand capacity stadiums in the underdeveloped eastern province. China also constructed 80 percent of the country’s roads, beginning with a loan of 250 million yuan in 2009. This equals about $36,040,200 million.

In the short term, the Chinese have reduced the cost of construction and have created jobs for local people according to Qinghai Liu, A Chinese expert in the research on China’s investment in Africa. Evidence exists to support her claim as well. One example is the construction of the Administrative Office Complex located in the capital city of Kigali. The Chinese builders employ some 260 Rwandan employees and provide them training in construction skills.

China is also funding an agriculture technology center to help improve Rwanda’s farming. Construction has also extended into real estate. Chinese enterprises are building 4,500 villas and apartments in Vision City for an emerging middle class. Recently, the Chinese embassy donated building materials for housing for the most vulnerable families.

The Tradeoff

The Rwandan government has found a willing investment partner in China whose aid is not preconditioned on democratization, liberalization and privatization. Rwanda has even modeled its development on China, lacking an emphasis on personal and social freedoms. Should Rwanda be unable to pay its debts, it is unclear what China might do to make good on its investment. Sri Lanka is the only country to have defaulted on its loans with China in the past. China seized the economically vital port of Hambantota in a response that remains controversial to this day.

Though there are obvious political and social concerns that come with the investment in Rwanda, the poor are benefiting. There is evidence that China is playing a concrete role in helping to lift Rwandans out of poverty. In big and small ways, China is helping Rwanda in its development, and not just the rich are benefiting.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Google

Universal Eye Care in Rwanda
Rwanda has become the first low-income country to provide universal eye care to its citizens. This is in an attempt to reach out to those suffering from largely preventable visual disabilities. In Rwanda, a country in Central/Eastern Africa, 34 percent of its population struggles with vision impairments. The most common vision impairment in Rwanda is shortsightedness, and 80 percent of these cases are preventable.

Vision Impairment is a Big Problem

Approximately 2.5 billion people worldwide require vision or eye care. Moreover, 32,700 per 1 million people living in Africa have some form of vision impairment. Vision impairment has proven to increase the challenges a person faces when trying to escape poverty. Without the ability to see well, children may struggle in school and parents can struggle at work.

Without the ability to learn easily, one may have difficulty finding a job, and the ability to work easily can make it difficult for one to keep whatever job they may find. Vision-related disabilities are a big problem among impoverished communities where eye care is difficult to find. These disabilities often only reinforce the cycle of poverty.

The Vision 2020 Initiative

Rwanda signed the Vision 2020 initiative in 2002, formulating a plan to meet the needs of the 34 percent of Rwandans in need of primary eye care. With the help of the Vision for a Nation Foundation, the Rwandan government has managed to provide universal eye care in Rwanda to its 11.8 million inhabitants. This is possible by training more than 3,000 nurses in an eye health course and sending these nurses to visit all 15,000 of the country’s villages to offer their help.

This nationwide program has deployed its nurses to all 502 health clinics throughout the country and has performed more than 2.4 million eye screenings. It has also provided more than 1.2 million basic eye treatments to Rwandans in need. Additionally, it has worked hard to establish a source of medications and glasses from Asia that supply all the health clinics.

The Government of Rwanda completely overtook the finances and management of the health program in January 2018. The Rwandan government was ready to fully support the program without further help from the Vision for a Nation Foundation, 16 years after signing the initiative. This marks Rwanda as the first developing country to give universal eye care to its citizens.

In a nation where only 19.8 percent of inhabitants have easy access to electricity, providing eye care for the entire population of the country is quite an impressive feat. Rwanda’s initiative is a leading example of African health care reform. This shows that it is possible to offer eye care on such a large scale in impoverished countries. One can only assume what Rwanda’s next move will be in furthering its health care availability.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

cancer in developing countriesMajor progress has been made in recent years in combating leading threats to global health such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, there is a lesser-discussed global health problem that is growing in developing nations. Eight million cancer cases across the world occur in developing countries, accounting for 57 percent of all reported cancer cases worldwide. Ami Bhatt and her coworkers at the School of Medicine at Stanford University are working to change these numbers by reducing cancer in the developing world.

Background on Ami Bhatt

In 2009, Bhatt became aware of the growing danger of cancer in developing countries through her work at Harvard University. She knew that something had to be done. She started a nonprofit with another fellow in her program, Franklin Huang, who became equally as passionate about this topic. The organization, called Global Oncology (GO), has launched numerous programs and projects since its start in 2012. All of them are aimed at creating better care for cancer patients in low and middle-income countries through new technology, education and medical training. In 2014, Bhatt started her work at the Stanford School of Medicine. Since then she has mobilized her coworkers to further explore the pandemic of cancer in the developing world and find ways to combat it.

Educational and Tracking Resources

Working with a design firm in sub-Saharan Africa, Bhatt was able to develop materials with simple messaging and visuals to help patients in developing nations understand potential treatment options, side effects and complications. Many patients in these low-income areas drop out of treatment because they do not fully understand the process of treatments like chemotherapy. These materials are aimed at solving this problem and keeping more patients in treatment. They are currently being used in cancer wards across Rwanda, Botswana and Haiti.

GO also partnered with the National Cancer Institute to develop an interactive map of cancer researchers and program managers across the world. This resource is the first of its kind and has increased interaction and collaboration between those working in the field. The map gives experts equal access to contemporary knowledge and technology being used to combat cancer in the developing world.

Work in Nigeria and Rwanda

In 2017, Bhatt and her colleagues at GO collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria to identify two hospitals that could make a huge impact by taking their cancer care programs to the next level. The northern portion of Nigeria is Muslim-majority while the southern area is Christian majority. For this reason, they chose ABUTH hospital in the north and Lagos University Teaching Hospital in the south.

The programs implemented at these hospitals were aimed toward outlining potential opportunities for hospital faculty to carry out improvements in their cancer programs. After this program had been in place for a few months, Bhatt and a few of her colleagues traveled to Nigeria to complete a comprehensive needs assessment. This formed the foundation for the recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Health that were included in the Nigerian 2018-2023 National Cancer Control Plan.

While teaching classes to physicians in Rwanda, Bhatt discovered that patients with leukemia were being treated with hydroxyurea, a drug that only prolongs a patient’s life for about five years. She found out that the country had lost free access to an alternate drug called Gleevec, which can prolong someone’s life for up to 30 years. Bhatt and her Stanford colleagues spent weeks lobbying the Rwandan Ministry of Health as well as the drug manufacturer to restore free access to Gleevec in Rwanda.

Sixty-five percent of those who die from cancer yearly live in developing countries. Ami Bhatt recognized the existence and implications of this statistic in 2009. She has made it her life’s work to battle cancer in the developing world ever since. As more and more people recognize cancer as a major problem in the developing world, Bhatt and her team get closer and closer to winning the battle.

Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Rwanda

Rwanda has made an exerted effort to improve education in the country, paying close attention to the needs of girls. However, the overwhelming cultural and historical barriers for girls are still inhibiting educational equality. Removing obstacles so that girls can successfully complete secondary school are essential next steps. The government must continue its efforts to devote the funds needed to meet these goals. The implementation of thoughtful programming that UNICEF and other entities have developed will help in this task. The following are five facts about girls’ education in Rwanda.

5 Facts About Girls’ Education in Rwanda

  1. Despite increased government focus on the education of girls in Rwanda, girls continue to face significant barriers. Girls in Rwanda experience poverty, sexual harassment and violence. Walks to school can be very long and more dangerous for girls. Furthermore, they are often burdened with family responsibilities such as caring for the elderly. They are encouraged to marry young or seek employment in place of education due to family poverty. The schools may lack separate girls’ restrooms, which discourage girls from attending, especially after puberty.
  2. The Rwandan genocide in 1994 decimated schools and the country has had to rebuild the educational system since then. Girls and women were especially vulnerable to becoming severely impoverished by these circumstances. No schooling took place for a year in Rwanda. “Thousands of teachers and children were killed or displaced.” Reentry into school has been an ongoing struggle for girls as the education of boys is prioritized culturally.
  3. In 2004, the country introduced the National Girls Education Task Force. In 2007, the first lady of Rwanda launched a 5-year school campaign to promote the enrollment and achievement of girls in school. The goals included an increase in achievement and an improvement in retention for girls. The program aimed to examine the barriers girls face in completing their education. One feature of the campaign includes grants and prizes for schools excelling at enrollment retention and high achievements. Funds went toward science equipment, sports facilities, gardens and other programs that would benefit girls in the school environment.
  4. The Rwandan Ministry of Education and UNICEF Rwanda wrote the National Gender-Responsive Teacher Training Package in order to continue “building gender equality in every classroom in Rwanda.” This program starts with breaking down gender bias that educators perpetuate. Next, it goes into learning outcomes and explicit gender-responsive pedagogy and school leadership. The document outlines how to implement and evaluate gender equity within a school environment through a shift in language, priorities and practices.
  5. The World Bank identifies six factors that are heavily influenced by girls completing secondary education. Earnings and standard of living are increased when girls complete secondary education. There is a significant reduction in child marriage and early childbearing. This also influences fertility rates and population growth. Health and nutrition are improved through education and better decision-making skills. Finally, education improves agency and social behaviors.

Rwanda’s education system has had to be reconstructed from the ground up since 1994. While they’ve made impressive strides, the needs of girls require ongoing attention and funding. Developing a cultural shift towards prioritizing the education of girls will lead to positive changes for all as these five facts about girls’ education in Rwanda show. When education is equitable for girls, the entire country will reap the benefits of the stabilization and reduction in poverty for girls and women.

Susan Niz
Photo: Wikimedia

Education in Rwanda
Rwanda has come far from its genocidal war that split the country apart decades ago. The country has taken a step away from this bloody past and is looking towards the future by improving its education system. Rwanda still has massive hurdles like the transition from traditional learning ideas to the implementation of modern and more progressive ideas involving technology and curriculum. This article will go over exactly what Rwanda has done through 6 facts about education in Rwanda.

6 Facts about Education in Rwanda

  1. Three Main Languages: Schools teach three main languages in Rwanda. The national language is Kinyarwanda and educators teach it in primary school. English is another primary language for upper-level classes whilst French is mostly an elective that students can choose to take. Some schools in Rwanda, however, make it mandatory to learn both French and English. Certain schools are having difficulty prioritizing and shifting from teaching colonial French to teaching English within the country.
  2. Rwanda’s Education Budget: Rwanda has allocated more of its national budget towards its education system in recent years than before. Between 2012 and 2013, the country allocated only 17 percent of the national budget towards education, but it increased to 22 percent between 2017 and 2018. This country sees this increase as necessary since the current system currently overworks many teachers who have to pull double shifts to cover all of the required curricula.

  3. The Previous Education System: It is evident that the education system has come a long way since the early 1900s when the schooling system was informal. At that time, Rwandan families were in charge of education and children went to Amaterero schools where they learned about military matters, smithing, basketry and other practical skills that the nation required. Rwanda did this to prioritize education during wartime and conflict rather than fermenting an education during peace.

  4. Education Disparity and Civil War: Uneven education played a part in the civil war within Rwanda. Rwanda allowed the Tutsis to have some premium education between 1960 to 1990, leaving the Hutus to foot the bill. The Hutus also did not have nearly as much access to this education. This exploitation and inequality of education influenced the eruption of civil war between the two peoples.

  5. Tertiary Education: The highest level of education in Rwanda is the Tertiary education level with over 50,000 students within the country competing there. One of the most prestigious of these schools is the National University of Rwanda, which emerged in 1963 and is located in Butare. It is actually a conglomerate of several facilities that make up one single university where educators encourage students to specialize in many different curriculums

  6. Online Education: Rwanda is modernizing its education system by allowing students to take tests online, using TOEFL program. The Department of ICT also oversees E-testing to make sure that students have access to this online testing as a whole. This technology and information are run jointly with the Rwanda Information Technology Authority (RITA). This program makes it so that the ICT technology receives proper advertisement and the schools put it to proper use.

Despite having a bloody history, Rwanda is clearly taking steps to make sure that its education system can plant the seeds for the country’s future. The country is making sure that its education system is putting money to proper use to improve the learning of its younger populace, through the use of technology and the efficiency of its various leveled programs. This has all become clear to us through these 6 facts about education in Rwanda.

Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Combating Poverty with Renewable EnergyIn the modern era, more than a billion people around the world live without power. Energy poverty is an ongoing problem in nations like Liberia where only about 2 percent of the population has regular access to electricity. The World Bank explains that “poor people are the least likely to have access to power, and they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.”

With the new global threat of climate change, ending poverty means developing renewable energy that will power the world without harming it. Here are five countries combating poverty with renewable energy.

5 Countries Combating Poverty with Renewable Energy

  1. India plans to generate 160 gigawatts of power using solar panels by 2022. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Natural Resources Defense Council India must create an estimated 330,000 jobs to achieve this goal. With this new effort to expand access to renewable energy, East Asia is now responsible for 42 percent of the new renewable energy generated throughout the world.
  2. Rwanda is another nation combating poverty with renewable energy. The country received a Strategic Climate Fund Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program Grant of $21.4 million in 2017 to bring off-grid electricity to villages across the country. Mzee Vedaste Hagiriryayo, 62, is one of the many residents who have already benefited from this initiative. While previously the only energy Hagiriryayo knew was wood and kerosene, he gained access to solar power in June of 2017. He told the New Times, “Police brought the sun to my house and my village; the sun that shines at night.” Other residents say it has allowed children to do their homework at night and entrepreneurs to build grocery stores for the village.
  3. Malawi’s relationship with windmills started in 2002 when William Kamkwamba, famous for the book and Netflix film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” built his first windmill from scrap materials following a drought that killed his family’s crops for the season. Kamkwamba founded the Moving Windmill Project in 2008 with the motto, “African Solutions to African Problems.” Today the organization has provided solar water pumps to power water taps that save residents the time they had once spent gathering water. Additionally, it has added solar power internet and electricity to local high schools in order to combat poverty with renewable energy.
  4. Brazil has turned to an energy auction system for converting their energy sources over to renewable energy. Contracts are distributed to the lowest bidders with a goal of operation by the end of six years. Brazilian agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE) auctioned off 100.8 GW worth of energy on September 26, 2019. EPE accepted 1,829 solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to be auctioned off at the lowest prices yet.
  5. Bangladesh is turning to small-scale solar power in order to drastically improve their access to energy. These low-cost home systems are bringing electricity to low-income families who would otherwise be living in the dark. The nation now has the largest off-grid energy program in the world, connecting about 5.2 million households to solar power every year, roughly 12 percent of the population.

With one in seven people living without electricity around the world, ending energy poverty could be the key to ending world poverty. The story of renewable energy around the world is one that is not only tackling climate change but also thirst, hunger and the income gap. According to Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Najib Fakhoury, “Our story is one of resilience and turning challenges into opportunities. With all honesty it was a question of survival, almost of life and death.” With lower costs and larger access, renewable energy is not only the future of environmental solutions but the future of development for countries all around the world.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Scavenger Hunt for a Cause
The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt, or GISH, is a scavenger hunt for a cause and one that can boast that it actually is the greatest international scavenger hunt — it has received a Guinness World Record for the largest media scavenger hunt in the world. “Supernatural” actor Misha Collins founded GISH in 2011, and it is a scavenger hunt for a cause that has seen over 55,000 participants from over 69 countries since its inaugural year. GISH effectively mobilizes its thousands of participants toward charitable causes, often by making charitable donations a task in the annual hunt. On such a large scale, GISH has made an impact on causes including refugee settlement and farmland donations in Africa.

What is GISH?

Formally known as GISHWHES, GISH is a scavenger hunt for a cause and a viral online media event that takes place over one week every year. Participants must pay a $25 sign-up fee and teams must consist of 15 people, either personally chosen or randomly assigned. The organization sends out the scavenger hunt list via email as well as the GISH app, and the goal is to complete as many tasks as possible by the end of the week.

Some previous tasks from 2019 included hosting Stormtrooper X Games and providing photos, finding an actual spacesuit and putting a GISH patch next to the national flag. Additionally, some tasks were to create a brochure for a Mars tourist company, plant and maintain trees and help residents of a local nursing home “escape” by throwing a summer party and asking about their favorite memories.

How Does GISH Help?

Through various GISH tasks over the last few years, participants have cleaned thousands of beaches, more than 2,000 participants have donated blood, more than 800 have registered as bone marrow donors, more than 3,000 have volunteered for food pantries and volunteers have donated more than $700,000 to charity. In 2011, GISH raised money to build an orphanage and care center for the orphans of the Haiti earthquake of 2010. In 2016, participants raised enough funds for four refugee families from Syria to move out of a refugee camp and into a stable housing environment. In 2018, GISH participants helped to provide over 250 acres of farmland and resources to women in Rwanda to rebuild their lives and provide them with the opportunity of financial freedom. In 2019, scavenger hunt teams raised funds to help refugees at the U.S./Mexico border and raised more than $240,000 to help families in Laos. These are just a few of the impacts that GISH has had in the last eight years.

Random Acts: A Partner Charity

Random Acts, a charity also founded by Misha Collins, is an organization dedicated to finding new ways to bring random acts of kindness into the world. Similar to GISH, it has an annual event called AMOK (annual melee of kindness), where participants perform various acts of kindness to make their community a better place, including fundraising and mobilizing.

It also hosts Endurance 4 Kindness, which is a global event that allows participants to push themselves and raise money for a good cause. Random Acts has helped fund campaigns like Hope to Haiti and Dreams 2 Acts: Nicaragua as well. GISH has partnered with Random Acts in the past to save a South African dance school in 2017 and to help build an orphanage in Haiti in 2011.

How to Participate

To participate in GISH, find a team (or opt for random placement), sign up through their website, pay the $25 participation fee and wait to receive the list! Prepare to be uncomfortable and awkward, but be ready for a good time. Overall, keep in mind that although seemingly lighthearted and just for fun, many of the tasks aim to make a real difference, both in local communities and globally.

GISH is a scavenger hunt for a cause and has been going strong for the past eight years, constantly breaking Guinness Records and gaining more participants as it grows. It emerged as a call to action in response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2011 and has since helped people all over the world. From refugees in Syria and Lebanon in 2016 to women in Rwanda in 2017 to families in Laos this year, GISH has made impacts all over the world. GISH is the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt for a great international cause and each year continues to see more participants helping to change the world. Over the next few years, participants will help thousands of people and donate thousands of dollars for various charities, expanding an already record-setting scavenger hunt for a cause.

Jessica Winarski
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene for RefugeesWhen looking at menstrual hygiene for refugees, imagine for a moment, having a period while fleeing political violence or natural disaster when sanitary products and private sanitation facilities are scarce. In the Syrian refugee crisis alone, there are more than one million girls and women between the ages of 12 and 59 in need of access to menstrual hygiene. This means that 29 percent of the more than four million Syrian refugees are in need of access to menstrual hygiene.

While refugee camps make sure to provide food, shelter and clean water, many personal items are not provided. Too often, menstrual hygiene for refugees such as disposable products and private facilities not given adequate attention. In turn, many women and girls often have to rely on reusing rags or garbage, which can lead to infections. However, there are organizations working to improve access to menstrual hygiene for refugees.

Rwanda

In refugee settlements in Rwanda, more than 10,000 women and girls from Burundi struggle with maintaining menstrual hygiene. Plan International Rwanda is working to improve access to menstrual hygiene for refugees by providing 3,668 women and girls with underwear and sanitary pads. By providing them access to sanitary products, Plan International Rwanda allows girls to go to school, play with other children and feel more confident.

Uganda

The nation of Uganda has been attacking the problem of menstrual hygiene for refugees from multiple angles. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC), for example, has been distributing menstrual hygiene supplies such as reusable pads, buckets, soap, towels and undergarments. In addition, they are building latrines and carrying out community sensitization activities to destigmatize menstruation.

Reusable menstrual hygiene products have proven to be an important option for refugees. Just four reusable pads provided by the DRC can last a refugee a year. Another reusable option that has grown in popularity thanks to the NGO WoMena is the use of menstrual cups. These medical-grade silicone cups can be worn up to 12 hours at a time and are less likely to leak. One cup can also be reused for up to a decade. The organization provides training to teach refugees how to use them. This aids in destigmatizing misconceptions around its use and losing one’s virginity. Of those who decided to try these reusable cups, 81 percent reported satisfaction with the product.

Jordan

In Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp, the U.K.-based non-profit, Loving Humanity has been working to not only provide sanitary products but also job opportunities. Jobs are being created by implementing 12 machines that assemble low-cost sanitary products in 2016. These machines were pioneered in India by Arunachalam Muruganantham after seeing his wife hoarding rags because she could not afford menstrual hygiene supplies. His design creates inexpensive pads by breaking down tree bark cellulose. It is very popular among rural women in India because it costs approximately 30 cents for a 10-pack of pads.

The cost of one machine is $2,000 and a month’s worth of materials is $360. This will produce 30,000 pads. In Zaatari, these machines aim to employ women in the community. This gives them a sense of empowerment and control over their bodies as well as a paycheck.

When it comes to disaster management, it is vital to include menstrual hygiene for refugees. While these methods have helped improve access to menstrual hygiene products, many refugees still have to choose between food and hygiene. Access to these supplies, though, opens a world of opportunities for girls. They can play with other kids and pursue their educations without the anxiety of stigmatization.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Prevention in Rwanda

In August 2018, the World Health Organization confirmed an Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, the Rwandan government has taken a proactive stance with a rigorous system to promote Ebola prevention in Rwanda. So far, the system has been successful. Despite constant traffic across the borders between the DRC and Rwanda, there have been no cases of Ebola in Rwanda.

Threat of Transmission from the DRC

Since the outbreak of Ebola in the DRC, there have been more than 2,600 confirmed cases of the virus and 1,800 deaths. According to the WHO, the DRC Ebola outbreak is one of the worst outbreaks in history, second only to the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic. The WHO recently designated the outbreak as a global health emergency. With approximately 12 cases of Ebola arising every day in the DRC, the threat of transmission to other countries is still high, especially Rwanda. Since the Ebola threat is just across their border, Rwanda’s government has been proactive in preventing it.

Strategies for Ebola Prevention in Rwanda

The Rwandan National EVD Preparedness Plan is the basis of Ebola prevention, with key strategies, including early detection and response training, Ebola education, vaccinating health workers, outfitting health facilities, and carrying out simulation drills.

Early detection and response training help prepare medical staff, from Red Cross volunteers to health care centers. Rwanda’s efforts to educate its citizens, also contribute to early detection and response training. Through radio, television, billboards and community meeting, the public has learned the signs and symptoms of Ebola, so citizens are better prepared.

Vaccinating health workers in high-risk areas is also critical to controlling transmission, should health workers encounter a patient with Ebola. Approximately 3,000 health workers have received vaccinations so far. Beyond health care officials, Rwanda set up an Ebola treatment center and 23 isolation units. These measures, paired with simulation exercises to maximize response efficiency, go beyond proactive, by preparing for potential Ebola transmission.

In addition to all these measures, health officials check for Ebola symptoms at points of entry to Rwanda. Officials check travelers’ temperatures and make them wash their hands, while Ebola awareness messages play in the background. So far, these measures have kept Ebola out of Rwanda. Even so, the threat of Ebola spreading to Rwanda remains critical.

Increasing Threat of Ebola Transmission

In early August 2019, Rwanda briefly closed its borders, after the third confirmed Ebola death in the Congolese border city of Goma. According to a joint statement from the WHO and the United Nations, the latest case of Ebola in the highly populated, border city of Goma increases the risk of the virus spreading to other countries.

The government closed the border to cut down on traffic between the two countries, due to concerns of transmission between Goma and the Rwandan city of Gisenyi. Though Rwandan officials shortly reopened the border in response to international criticism, they have also increased cross-border monitoring between the two countries.

Moving Forward

As WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted, “Rwanda has made a significant investment in Ebola preparedness.” These investments and prevention strategies have stopped the spread of Ebola into Rwanda thus far. However, the threat of Ebola transmission will remain significant, until the outbreak is controlled in the DRC. Therefore, it is crucial that the Rwandan government, as well as health organizations worldwide, keep encouraging Ebola prevention in Rwanda.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Global Heatlh EquityThere have been many advances in healthcare from the discovery of germs and the invention of vaccines to high-tech solutions like telesurgery and gene editing. Yet, with all of the advanced healthcare systems in the world, some people still lack access to even basic services. According to a study from the World Health Organization and the World Bank, more than half of the population lacks access to healthcare.

Global Healthcare Access

If a random person were selected on the street, it would be more likely that they wouldn’t have access to essential healthcare services. And for people who have access to healthcare, it can be prohibitively expensive. The study also found that an additional 100 million people spent so much on healthcare that it forced them into extreme poverty.

When the study was released in December 2017, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was disturbed by the fact that so many people still didn’t have access to basic health services. He believes “A solution exists: universal health coverage allows everyone to obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.” One path to improving healthcare is by increasing the number of qualified healthcare professionals.

University of Global Health Equity

The fight to get everyone in the world access to healthcare is called global health equity. In 2004, a medical journal defined global health equity as an approach to medicine that centers on the issue of the extreme lack of access to healthcare. They wrote, “[r]egardless of their origins, social and economic inequalities are reflected epidemiologically: disparities of outcome in and between countries are now major challenges in medicine and public health.”

One recent initiative aiming to tackle these challenges is the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali, Rwanda. The initiative formally began in 2014. The campus opened last year. The university is a collaboration between the government of Rwanda and the U.S.-based nonprofit Partners in Health (PIH). PIH helped build primary healthcare facilities in 10 different countries, including Rwanda. Additionally, it has also helped establish health equity-focused programs in U.S. medical schools.

The purpose of this university is to bring equity-focused medical education to a place directly affected by health inequity. The founders write that the university “stands alone in both its focus on equity and its proximity to health systems that face the very challenges that students will grapple with in the classroom.” Gary Gottlieb, CEO of PIH says that “[t]he vision of…being able to create that educational pipeline is the foundation of the University of Global Health Equity.”

Making Medical School More Accessible

Another part of the problem that the university is trying to solve is the “brain drain.” This is when medical graduates from impoverished countries cannot find well-paying jobs in their home countries, so they travel to more economically stable countries instead. As a result, impoverished countries frequently do not have enough medical professionals even when they have enough medical schools.

The University of Global Health Equity aims to help its students find job opportunities that focus on health inequity. It also has a blind admissions process, so it can admit all qualified students regardless of their ability to pay. Dr. Abebe Bekele, Dean of Health Sciences at the university believes that neither sex nor economic background should get in the way of someone realizing their dream of becoming a doctor.

On average, students have 91 percent of their tuition funded by scholarships. So far, 37 students have graduated. Furthermore, 88.5 percent of them work in nonprofits or the public sector in accordance with the university’s mission of an equity-based approach to healthcare. This is an important step in global health equity that will help create more jobs in the medical field around the world.

-Sean Ericson
Photo: Mass Design Group