In Rwanda, Health Builders is focused on laying the foundation for healthy lives by ensuring women have access to appropriate prenatal care and providing health care workers with the knowledge they need to help prevent disease in children under 5 years.
The importance of this work was especially apparent for Health Builders’ Director of Programs and Development, Immaculate Kyarisiima this past year. Like women all over the world, Immaculate was pregnant during one of the most frightening times in history: the COVID-19 pandemic. Immaculate recently shared her story with us.
“It’s an emotional experience beyond measure, being a mom for the first time. Feeling the baby kicks beginning around the third month of pregnancy made me feel like nine months won’t come soon enough so I could see him with my own eyes. Then watching the baby’s first smile, looking into my face, clinging on me….I find myself in tears of joy! Being a mother, I feel more responsible than ever.”
Immaculate’s pregnancy was not easy. And the joy of finally giving birth to a healthy baby boy after several fearful months was muted by a diagnosis of COVID-19 while she was still in the hospital.
“I was able to have a monthly Antenatal Care (ANC) visit to a nearby hospital where I could have access to an obstetrician and gynecologist and ultrasound scanning. At four months, the doctor discovered that I had a low-lying placenta which put my pregnancy at risk, so I had to take precautions. Fortunately, I delivered a healthy baby boy by C-Section at a referral hospital in Rwanda. A very few hours after receiving the little one, the abundance of joy was interrupted by bad news that I was diagnosed with COVID-19. I had to be isolated at home, putting on a mask even while holding and breastfeeding my baby so as not to infect him. My husband was very supportive and caring. Fortunately, two weeks later, the COVID-19 test was negative and I could resume a kind of normal life including taking my baby for vaccinations and checkups. Though my prenatal and postnatal (PNC) experience was good, there are other mothers in rural Rwanda who do not get access to quality ANC and PNC largely because health care providers do not have the knowledge and skills and the health centers lack lifesaving technology like obstetric ultrasound.”
Motherhood has made Immaculate even more determined to help ensure that every woman in Rwanda has access to health care.
“In close collaboration with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and local governments, I oversee the Maternal and Child Health programs at Health Builders aimed at improving the quality of care for mothers and children with the goal of reducing maternal and child mortality. We train and mentor healthcare providers and community health workers to address the most common infectious diseases (malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea) among children under five years. I also oversee the introduction of obstetric ultrasound technology and training nurses and midwives on its use in primary healthcare centers. This project is pivotal in helping mothers access quality ANC services at the nearest health centers instead of having to walk long distances to the hospital for ultrasound scanning. I am thankful to Health Builders and its support. The work that Health Builders is doing in supporting its own staff and Rwandan communities is vital. I feel proud to be part of Health Builders!”