Since 1994, Rwanda has achieved unprecedented progress in improving the health status of the nation’s people through aggressively tackling infectious diseases and strengthening the health system. Over the past five years, Rwanda has made dramatic improvements in improving health outcomes including: a 50% decline in child mortality, a 70% decline in malaria incidence, a 52% increase in the proportion of mothers delivering at health facilities, and a 450% increase in the uptake of modern family planning methods. Additionally, Rwanda has made impressive progress towards meeting the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and its own ambitious targets for improving the health of its people by 2020.
Despite these accomplishments, maternal and child illness is still too high in Rwanda, and the burden of poorly treated diseases is substantial. To sustain achievements and make for progress, Rwanda must improve its health workforce to improve the quality and quantity of care. Currently, Rwanda has only 625 physicians for a population of over 10 million people. There are only 8,000 Rwandan nurses, about 91% of whom have the lowest level of nursing training available. A mere 10 Rwandan dentists serve the entire country.
Rwanda is currently led by a leader who, in my point of view, runs this country as a value-driven private enterprise for sustainable and equitable economic growth. We know that some “quick win” interventions can in fact be the enemy of sustainable development if they are not designed thoughtfully and with the larger context of development in mind. Our health strategies, policies, and implementation approaches must be oriented towards breaking the cycle of poverty as this is the only way to break the cycle of preventable diseases and manage illnesses. This will support our development. Thus, to address Rwanda’s critical shortage of health workers we have designed the Rwanda Human Resources for Health (HRH) Program which takes roots in the National Strategic Plan for Human Resources for Health (2011 – 2016) with the goal to lay down the blueprint for guaranteeing long term equitable access to high-quality medical care and education by increasing the quantity and quality of teachers, physicians, nurses, midwives, health managers and other health care workers needed to ensure sustainability of the health system and, with time, ensure financial independence from foreign aid.
The Rwanda HRH program will take place over a seven year period through collaboration and partnership with many of the leading US educational institutions. Through this program we plan to strategically, systematically, and comprehensively address the most challenging obstacles to high quality healthcare in Rwanda including: the critical shortage of skilled health workers; poor quality of health worker education; inadequate equipment in health facilities; and inadequate management of health facilities. The Rwanda HRH Program is a strong next step in ensuring a healthy Rwanda. Through continued collaboration and implementation of this program, I am confident that we will revolutionize Rwanda’s health sector.