January 2016 NewTimes; 2015 was a great year with regards to the health sector. A lot of progress was registered in various programmes. Now, 2016 is at hand and with it comes very many other aspirations. Healthy Times’ Donah Mbabazi talked to various stakeholders in the health sector about their plans for the new year.
Dr Jean Nyirinkwaya, CEO, Hopital La Croix Du Sud: There has been a very big progress in the health sector and there is hope to continue with the advancement.
In the start there were many challenges, such as scarcity of doctors, nurses and equipment among others. Diseases such as malaria, meningitis, measles and HIV/AIDS, were claiming lots of lives but all this is changing.
The doctors have to be able to tackle these problems, but to perform even better, they have to find more approaches such as getting better trainings. The East African Community is also trying to attract doctors from other countries, and by doing this we shall make progress in our country. We also strive to bring in new medical equipment.
Nathan Mugume, the head of division, Health Communication Centre at Rwanda Biomedical Centre: With the health systems, the Ministry of Health is planning to strengthen the ongoing accreditation process for districts, provincial and referral hospitals.
The ministry is also hoping to improve hospital finance management and capacities to generate more resources internally. We also hope to strengthen community health workers cooperatives to be financially viable and able to generate revenues.
With access to quality care, there are plans for capacity building of human resources at the central and decentralised levels through continuous support for the establishment of health posts, improving quality of health information use for decision making at each level.
Key priorities for 2016-2017 for the ministry within the Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP III) programmes include investing in decreasing mortality and morbidity among under 5s (newborns, infants and children aged 1-5).
Phillipa Kibugu, the founder and director of Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa Inc (BCIEA): I am very excited about the innovative breast cancer awareness campaign that was launched this October. The campaign, “Fighting Breast Cancer One Smartphone per Village” is the brainchild of BCIEA, which was founded after realising that in spite of funding challenges that BCIEA has faced, the fight must go on if only “we can use what we have to get where we want to be.”
It was established that 76% of Rwandans own mobile phones but lack access to life-saving information or awareness, and according to a recent study from Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence underscored by global research, lack of awareness is closely linked to late stage presentation of breast cancer.
To leverage the explosive expansion and popularity of cell phone usage in Rwanda and East Africa, we developed a mobile breast cancer awareness App that is accessible on phones, and with this BCIEA moved from traditional awareness to mobile dissemination of information in order to maximise available resources and reach more people.
The goal of this programme is to provide Rwandans at the village level with access to pertinent information about breast cancer, empower them to be aware, take charge of their health and as informed people eradicate the delay and late stage breast cancer presentation hence saving lives.
Rwanda has 14,847 villages, therefore, BCIEA’s goals for 2016 are: to supply 250 smart phones in different villages, translate the App in Kinyarwanda, modify it and avail it on basic mobile phones so that the whole project is more economically viable nationwide.
If one village has an average of 800 people and we put 250 smart phones, the organisation hopes to reach 200,000 in 2016 compared to 7,000 people who were reached out to in 2008-2014.
This programme can increase breast cancer awareness exponentially in Rwanda and beyond, and the BCIEA team will continue providing outreach programmes. BCIEA is also starting youth programmes in secondary schools. The organisation is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, as well as partners in telecommunication.
Dr Emmy Agabe Nkusi, a neurosurgeon at King Faisal Hospital: With the new surgical equipment, 3D navigation technology for neurosurgery that was introduced this year, we hope to achieve more this year. The delayed process in the usage of the new technology came as a result of the still ongoing discussions with insurance companies.
In most cases when certain procedures are expensive insurance companies refuse to collaborate but we are trying to sort all that out such that this year we can start to operate with it.
In the meantime, we are still using other procedures for operations and there are also others that have been introduced that are yet to be discussed.
Manasseh Gihana Wandera, the Executive director Society for Family Health Rwanda: In the year 2016, Society for Family Health Rwanda (SFH) is determined to aggressively fight diseases such as HIV/ Aids. We plan to conduct behavioural change campaigns that will target most prone members of the population such as female sex workers. We also plan on distributing over 18 million condoms. SFH plans to purify water for home consumption by distributing water purifiers and teaching people how to use them.
We also hope to aggressively tackle the problem of family planning by providing the necessary kits and carrying out awareness campaigns.
Malnutrition is still a problem in the country. We want to educate people and provide micronutrient powders to especially improve the nutrition of children. The distribution of the powders will start this year.
The fight against malaria is also among our plans. Sensitisation campaigns about certain practices such as encouraging people to sleep under mosquito nets will be broadened.
Hygiene will be our focus too. Personal hygiene is one of the critical areas that if not well addressed increases incidences of disease. Most times people ignore it but poor hygiene causes over 60% of the diseases that plague human beings.
2016 will also see us focus on maternal and child health because it is also a big problem. We want to focus on it by educating mothers, especially pregnant mothers, how to ensure they remain safe.
Penina Umutesi, a parent: 2015 has not been an easy year for my family, especially health wise, but we hope to take precautions this year. With the many diseases cropping up, one needs to take a lot of care. I will ensure that my family gets immunised against diseases such as Hepatitis, among others, and with that I hope we shall go through the New Year safe and sound.
Scovia Karungi, a parent: Everyone deserves to start the new year in great health. Parents on the other hand need to take good care of their families to ensure that their wellbeing is catered for. I intend to mind so much about the kind of food I prepare for my family, that is to say, reducing on oily foods and ensuring we have a balanced diet.