Healthcare in Rwanda has come a long way over the past couple of decades, with leaps in access to quality care that have made Rwanda a model for success compared to its neighbors. But what are some of the real reasons behind the positive outcomes of these efforts? Why is Rwanda succeeding?
Since the year 2000, worldwide attention to the deadly toll of weak health systems has been steadily growing, fueled by community advocates, governments and international donors.
Unlike many developing countries, Rwanda is known for its stable government and its willingness to invest in the future of its people. After the genocide in 1994, during which the healthcare system was also destroyed, Rwanda made a huge effort to rebuild its public health infrastructure. National insurance programs were created to provide low-cost healthcare to millions and their success set the model for the rest of the region. It is for this reason that more donors choose to invest in Rwanda than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa.
The country also has the unwavering support of President Paul Kagame, who strongly advocates for the notion of a healthy Rwanda while simultaneously acknowledging that external help is still necessary. When speaking to a group of Global Heath Corps fellows, young professionals who spend one year working with local health organizations around the world including Rwanda, he stated, “You have to accept the reality, Rwanda needs foreign aid. We need foreign aid to use it to build our own capacity so we don’t need it in the future.”
Organizations like Health Builders are doing just that, developing sustainable solutions to propel Rwanda’s health forward. Established in 2007, their vision is for every person to have access to high quality healthcare, allowing them to live dignified, healthy, and prosperous lives. They do so by using business management principles to strengthen health systems and build healthy communities. But Health Builders acknowledges that the key to making health facilities sustainable is to work closely with local communities and government partners. Their cost-effective initiatives are meant to not only make Rwanda healthier, but also to create jobs and promote economic prosperity. So far, Health Builders has facilitated health care access to more than 2 million Rwandans through systems strengthening activities in nearly 100 existing health centers, in addition to the construction of 8 new facilities in areas that previously had none.
In the end, there is no one reason or organization that can claim responsibility for Rwanda’s health systems improvements, nor is there one solution for how to ensure its continued growth. But for now, it is clear that health in Rwanda is moving in the right direction, with the help of foreign aid, strong government support, committed NGOs, and a remarkable optimism for Rwanda’s healthy future.