Hunger in Rwanda: The Good and the Bad
In Rwanda, poverty and hunger continue to pose a major challenge for the rapidly developing country. Based on the UNDP Human Development Index for 2011, the country ranks 166 out of 187 while maintaining one of the highest population densities in Africa. The large population puts a strain on proper healthcare as well as the already limited natural resources of the country. Although the government of Rwanda, together with the World Food Program, has found that nutrition levels and food security have been improving over the last seven years, the situation is still far from optimal.

Some of the major challenges Rwanda faces with regard to poverty and hunger could be solved by foreign aid investments or direct cash donors from developed nations and foreign aid organizations. 83.7% of the population survives on $2 a day or less, and without proper disposable income, it is impossible to support families with proper food, water, and nutrition.

Up to 90% of the population engages in subsistence agriculture. This, combined with the extreme crowding and limited access to land, makes subsistence farming inefficient.

WFP’s country director for Rwanda, Jan Delbaere, weighs in on the topic, explaining that “during 2012, WFP bought 23,000 metric tons of food in Rwanda, mostly for operations in neighboring countries. This is a clear sign that Rwanda is more than self-sufficient for its staple crops. However, households with only a small area of land for cultivation simply cannot afford to access enough nutritious food to live healthy, active lives or to provide for their basic needs from their land alone.”

The WFP remains committed to supporting the government in Rwanda to increase food security and food production programs, and the country itself has chosen to sign the “Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) compact and to secure funding, thus confirming malnutrition and food insecurity as one of the government’s key priorities.” In spite of its food insecurity, Rwanda’s GDP has been growing by 7.2% annually since 2010. With proper investment and aid, these issues can be solved, and the country set further on the right track to stability.

– Sarah Rybak

Source: WFP,Hope in Action
Photo: ESB Blog

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim have concluded a historic 3-day trip to the Great Lakes Region of Africa. While there, the leaders promoted peace, security and economic development in the countries of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda. These leaders pledged that their organizations would help and encourage these countries to achieve stability and economic development. These talks came after a historic agreement was reached in the DRC that ended the conflict in the region that had been going on for decades.

President Kim praised the three countries on their leadership emphasizing the opportunity for the leaders of the Great Lakes region to utilize the UN’s and World Bank’s commitment to ending poverty and building prosperity. President Kim further showed the World Bank Group’s commitment on their first stop in DRC pledging $1 billion to further improve health, education, nutrition, job training and other essential services in the DRC and Great Lakes region.

In Rwanda, the leaders visited the memorial of the 800,000 killed in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. While in Rwanda, they also laid the foundation stone for a new center to help women and girls victimized by violence. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni welcomed and thanked the leaders for their help in securing peace in Uganda. In the past 5 years, Uganda has seen immense growth and a 14% drop in the poverty rate.

This visit shows a new cooperation between the UN and the World Bank Group as well as a new support for African leaders from the international community. President Kim and Secretary-General Ban are hopeful for the future of this region.

President Kim summed up their hopes saying, “We hope that Africa’s Great Lakes become a global symbol for what is possible when countries work together to lift themselves out of conflict and succeed in boosting economic growth and shared prosperity.”

– Catherine Ulrich
Source: World Bank
Photo: Australian Climate Madness

The old model of aid consisted of rich countries bringing funds and ideas to poor countries and implementing plans to “save” the country.  Recent criticism has brought to light the idea that collaboration is key to effective aid. In the arena of healthcare, this is even more important as oftentimes, developing countries are given funds for healthcare uses, but told exactly what they have to do with it beforehand.

Ethiopia led the way in 2002 with their ambitious plan to provide primary healthcare to 85 million rural citizens. These citizens did not live within accessible distance of a doctor or hospital.  The Ministry of Health gave themselves 5 years to accomplish their goal.  Without resources or facilities to train the 30,000 community health workers necessary, Ethiopia embarked. Health workers were trained and sent out and since the program’s implementation, decreases in the number of women dying in childbirth and in the number of children dying before age 5 have been reported.  The relatively successful plan began with simple, community-level improvements.

Ethiopia is far from the regular standard as, typically, governments receiving outside aid do not start their own programs.  A representative from Rwanda’s Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning remarked that rarely do they get a say in where the money goes at all. Rwanda has requested money for low-income health insurance and was denied. Using tax money instead, Rwanda funded the pilot program and today over 90% of Rwandans have health insurance.

Developing countries are not being ungrateful for aid, but are slowly starting to speak up and question the potential of effectiveness for the money and programs involved in it.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is helping change the way aid is delivered by using coordination and collaboration. Donors are asked to contribute to health plans managed and implemented by the government rather than go in and start their own. The initiative is called the International Health Partnership. The goal is to allow developing countries a say in how and where the money is used, preventing rich countries from bullying or denigrating their plans and ideals.

As the economy continues to struggle and aid dollars are decreasing, collaboration and coordination are very important to continue to meet needs like adequate healthcare worldwide. Allowing developing nations to innovate and have a seat at the table will enable aid to be used more effectively and efficiently.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: The Atlantic

Online Voting in Telecentres

Telecentres are public places which provide access to internet and communication technologies (ICTs) that help promote social development for populations who otherwise would not have such access. Most telecentres are located in rural areas in the developing world.  The Foundation is hosting its first global telecentre competition in order to promote awareness of best practices.  The general public is welcomed to vote for their favorite telecentre program after registering in the website.  Deadline for voting was May 15, 2013.

To date, there are over 87,513 telecentres in over 53 countries.  The Foundation supports the establishment and sustainability of grassroots level telecentres. These telecentres offer crucial services, skills and opportunities to people living in remote and rural locations around the world.  The foundation is part of a bigger movement in the development community to reduce the digital divide and empower beneficiaries with the knowledge the world wide web could bring so they could lift themselves out of poverty.  Social investors of the foundation include the Microsoft Corporation and the Canadian International Development Agency’s International Development Research Centre.

Semi-finalists for the Global Telecentre Awards include programs which collaborate rural farmers, target trainings for underprivileged women and youth, promote e-learning, and of course, teach computer and internet skills.  These semi-finalists come from developing countries such as Rwanda, Philippines, Russia, India, Bangladesh, Paraguay, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

– Maria Caluag

Sources: Telecentre
Photo: AICEM

In May of 2012, the Daily Mail posted an article regarding author Matthew White’s book, “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things” which ranks the worst atrocities in history. The rank lists World War II as number one, the regime of Genghis Khan as number two, Mao Zedong’s regime as number three, British India famines as number four, and the fall of the Ming Dynasty as number five. The Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin ranked as number seven, and the Atlantic slave trade as number ten. (The list of all ten is available on Daily Mail.) On another source, the worst atrocities are ranked based on death tolls marking WWII as number one, the regime of China’s Mao Zedong as number two, Soviet Union’s Stalin regime as number three, WWI as number four, and the Russian Civil War as number five.

For the purpose of objectivity, it is important to note that all atrocities are significant and that these calculations seem mostly based on numerical and statistical measures. The presented list below will rank the top five photos of atrocity based on a combination of measures: timeliness (1945-present), death tolls, and global-scale emotional significance.

1) WWII led to approximately 55 million deaths (including the Holocaust)


(the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki)

2) (1949-1987) During China’s Mao Zedong regime, approximately 40 million lives were lost


(Famine during the Great Leap Forward)

3) (1975-1979) Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot regime caused approximately between 1.7 to 2 million deaths.


4) (1994) Rwanda’s genocide led to approximately 800,000 deaths


5) (1980-1989) The Soviet-Afghani War which led to approximately 1, 500,000 deaths


Leen Abdallah

Sources: The Hemoclysm, Religious Tolerance
Photos: Daily Mail, Google, Google, Google, Google

Rwanda’s citizens will be less vulnerable to shocks like unemployment and other disasters due to the approval of a US$50 million grant from the World Bank. This grant will be important to Rwanda’s social safety net programs and play a vital role in continuing to reduce poverty and inequality. Rwanda has already seen a decrease in poverty since early 2000 and attributes this success to its social protection system.

The social system of Rwanda is called the Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP). This program has gone from providing assistance for 10,000 people to over half a million people since its establishment four years ago. In about that same time period, poverty levels declined from 57% to 45%. The impact of increased funding for VUP is imperative for those relying on its services. A widowed woman raising three children praises VUP for its public works program maintaining that without it she would not have been able to provide for her children.

Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda, hopes to hear more stories like this one. She reminds us that Rwanda still has a long way to go in terms of ending poverty, but the World Bank will continue to support its social protection programs to help it reach these goals. The World Bank implemented the Second Support to the Social Protection System program which will assist Rwanda in carrying out its National Social Protection Strategy. The objective of this program is for the Rwandan government to improve their disaster risk management system and to ensure that those who need the services most are the ones receiving them.

The disaster risk management system will be particularly beneficial for impoverished people living in rural areas during times of drought. Fortunately, World Bank funding for these programs has continued to increase to a total of US$3 billion. Hopefully more developing countries will also improve their social safety net programs to lift their population out of poverty. With the support of organizations like the World Bank, poverty in Rwanda and other third world countries can become a concept of the past.

– Mary Penn
Source: allAfrica
Photo: About Go Africa

5 Critical Factors In Rwanda’s Healthcare SuccessJust in the last ten years in Rwanda, deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria have dropped by 80 percent, annual child deaths have fallen by 63 percent, maternal mortality has dropped by 60 percent, and life expectancy has doubled. All at an average annual healthcare cost of $55 per person.

Normally, after horrific national traumas, like Rwanda’s genocide of almost a million people in 1994, countries fall into a cycle of poverty and economic stagnation. Poor health and disease cripple workers and then the national economy, leaving the country ineffective to break out of depression.

A recent article in BMJ, led by Dr. Paul Farmer, Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, examined data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and attempted to identify why Rwanda was able to make such dramatic progress when so many other nations have failed before them.

They identified 5 critical factors In Rwanda’s healthcare success:

1. The government formed a centralized plan for economic development, with one of the pillars being health care; knowing that, without improving health, poverty would persist. There were heavy research and reliance on facts and data to formulate their health metrics.

2. Aid allocation was controlled and monitored; the government insisted that all aid agencies meet transparency and accountability standards consistent with the national development plan.

3. A treatment plan addressing all the associated issues around AIDS was implemented:  tuberculosis, malnutrition, need for in-home care, community health workers, “psychosocial” support, primary and prenatal care.

4. Financial incentive was given to coordinate care; a performance-based financing system was set up to pay hospitals, clinics and community health workers to follow-up on patients and improve primary care.

5. Universal health insurance for all citizens, with particular attention to providing for the most vulnerable populations. The average, annual out-of-pocket health spending was cut in half, and households experiencing health care bills that force them into poverty were significantly reduced. (Half the funding came from international donors and a half from annual premiums of less than $2 per person.)

Access to healthcare for ALL citizens is a prerequisite for controlling diseases and thus allowing for economic growth to lift people, and nations, out of poverty. The medical advances in Rwanda have pushed their economic growth, the GDP per person has tripled, and millions have been lifted from poverty over the last decade. Rwanda offers a replicable model for the delivery of high-quality healthcare and effective oversight, and even with limited resources.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Atlantic

Filmed in 2012, ‘Open Heart’ documents the journey of eight patients going through surgery at the Salam Center in Khartoum, Sudan. Salam is Africa’s only state-of-the-art, free-of-charge cardiac hospital offering children’s heart surgery and has been operating since 2007.

‘Open Heart’ follows Dr. Gino Strada, a surgeon at Salam and features Angelique Tuyishimere, the six-year-old daughter of a Rawandan farmer. Close to a third of the patients at Salam are under 14 making children’s heart surgery a common occurence at Salam.

Salam employs four cardiac surgeons  and is set up for 1,500 operations per year. However, due to funding issues, last year only 600 patients were operated on. Dr. Strada is forward about admitting the need in Africa is more than Salam can aid, but is still very happy with the progress that has been made and optimistic about the future.

Now, Davidson and the doctors – Rusingiza and Strada – will be attending the Oscars. If passport and visa issues are resolved, six-year-old Angelique and her dad will also be attending. Although he stands the chance of being honored at the Oscars, documentarian Kief Davidson still has not lost sight of the original problem being addressed – the lack of affordable healthcare in Africa, especially concerning the preventable diseases fought at Salam.

– Pete Grapentien

Source ABC News


1994 marked the end of genocide in Rwanda and the beginning of an effort to rebuild a country that was dismantled by genocide. Now, almost two decades later, Rwanda has become a story of evident progress.

In the last two decades, Rwanda has seen tremendous social and economic improvement. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line has sharply decreased from 78 percent in 1994 to 45 percent in 2013. The gross domestic product of Rwanda has more than tripled. Average life expectancy has doubled from 28 years to 56 years of age. Maternal mortality has decreased by 60 percent. The chance of a child under 5 dying has decreased by 70 percent. 99 percent of primary-school-age children are in school.

How has this happened?

According to a research study conducted by Partners in Health that was recently published in the British Medical Journal, improved health care has been the Rwandan answer.

Cameron Nutt, a member of the Partners in Health research team, stated, “The Rwandan government has attacked the deadliest diseases in the most vulnerable parts of the population”. It has subsidized the prices of many medicines and made it possible for nearly 98 percent of the population to have health insurance and access to preventative care, such as mosquito nets and vaccines. Rwandan leaders have taken a proactive approach to ensure the advancement of its health care system. The country has successfully utilized Western aid to train Rwandans in medical fields and improve the way in which major diseases, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, are treated.

For Rwanda, health care has meant vast amounts of change and improvement. Health care has equated for fewer people living below the poverty line, more people living longer, and more people being able to work and contribute to their country. Health care has resulted in successful development.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: NY Times, The Dartmouth

Photo Source: PHR