January 23, 2018
First on the agenda this morning after breakfast was a meeting with staff from the Ministry of Health to discuss the goals and vision for this partnership between VCU, Rwanda and Rotary International.
In April 1994, Rwanda experienced a 100 day genocide that resulted in 800,000-1,000,000 people killed, an estimated 20% of the country’s population. The genocide left the country economically and socially in tatters. It’s a complicated story, but well worth learning about if you are unfamiliar.
Next, we visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Our hosts were kind enough to escort us there and even provided us with flowers to place on the mass graves. I’m not even sure how to describe the experience, so I won’t try. But the museum is a sacred place, offering much to learn about humanity’s checkered past, and provides insight into how we can learn from all past genocide and work towards preventing any future conflicts.
Incredibly, Rwanda has not only been able to heal from its history, but is on a track to reach middle-income status by 2020. President Kagame, who came to power after the genocide, established the Vision 2020 development program. He made healthcare one of the top priorities in his plan, the effects of which can be seen throughout the country.
Per Wikipedia, “Rwanda has seen improvement on a number of key health indicators:
- Between 2005 and 2013, life expectancy increased from 55.2 to 64.0,
- under-5 mortality decreased from 106.4 to 52.0 per 1,000 live births,
- incidence of tuberculosis has dropped from 101 to 69 per 100,000 people.”
In our meeting, this focus was echoed. Working with SAMU, we are playing a small part in an overall strategy to improve healthcare by elevating and standardizing medical education, recording and analyzing data to assess patient outcomes and making evidence-based improvements to care. Rwanda is doing incredible things considering its resource limitations and is emerging as a thought-leader in healthcare delivery on the continent of Africa.
“Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
This was imprinted on glass at the Genocide Memorial. Today’s visit makes our work that much more meaningful. We are a part of the miracle of healing and rebuilding a nation and its people.
Explore more days in Rwanda: