Twenty four years after Rwandan Genocide against Tutsi in which more than one million people perished, the country has registered declines in child and maternal mortality and this transformation reflects the strength of results seen across the country in the last decade.
For instance, under-5 mortality dropped 60 percent between 2005 and 2010 in Southern Kayonza and Kirehe districts, according to statistics from the ministry of health.
In Rwanda 91% of births are assisted by a skilled provider, the majority by nurses, medical assistants, records from health ministry shows.
Childhood mortality rates have declined over the past 10 years. Infant mortality has decreased from 86 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 32 in 2014-2015, which is the latest report by the health ministry.
During the same time period, under-5 mortality has markedly decline from 152 to 50 deaths per 1,000 live births.
The achievements, health officials add, are products of grassroots movements to build and strengthen health systems founded on principles of public partnership, data science and universal access to care for all.
The east African country has witnessed the fastest drops in under-5 mortality ever recorded in the remote districts where Partners in Health was working saw rates drop twice as fast.
Indeed, international health organizations and other international health partners have hailed Rwanda and have tracked the country’s rise as a model for health-system transformation as it became the only country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve its health Millennium Development Goals.
“Through Rwanda’s commitment to a universal right to health, we have continued to witness transformation that has rendered our country’s health system an example for not only Africa, but for the world,” said Agnes Binagwaho, a paediatrician and Rwanda’s former Minister of Health, widely credited with transforming the country’s health system during a five-year term that ended in the summer of 2016.
She told this News Website that Health is a key pillar of the Rwandan government’s Vision 2020 strategy for economic development and poverty reduction.
She explained science has helped in many ways Rwandans. Research helps prevent diseases. Rwanda is using technology to help improve the capacity of health service providers.
Reducing cases of avoidable deaths on the continent is top of agenda at the ongoing Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa summit, which is discussing building and strengthening accountability in African healthcare systems.
Speaking to irwanda24.com on efforts in strengthening accountability in African health systems, the Minister for Health, Dr Diane Gashumba, said that though a lot has been done to reduce the maternity deaths which led Rwanda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in health, progress was not satisfactory.
“We have managed to reduce maternal deaths which helped Rwanda achieve MDGs. But we still have a long way to go. We cannot celebrate that we have 210 out of every 100,000 women succumbing to maternal mortality. We need to reduce this number,” she said. In 2010, maternal mortality in Rwanda stood at 487 deaths for every 100,000 women.
Figures from the World Maternal Index by World Health Organisation, Unicef and United Nations Population Fund, the average maternal mortality rate in Africa is 400 deaths for every 100,000 women, almost twice the maternal mortality rate in Rwanda and twenty times higher than the average for industrialised countries.
Among the accountability mechanisms in place that the government is banking on is to bring down these numbers is regular death audits, performance contracts, as well as performance based financing models for health providers.
Health experts say that most instances of maternal deaths are easily avoidable by slight adjustments and improvement in healthcare systems. Among the often cited challenges and hindrances in most regional countries include quality of service in health facilities, skill sets of personnel, and unavailability of health information systems.
By Eric Murinzi