Early in the morning, people from the local community begin to gather at a health center in rural Rwanda. On an adjacent hillside women and children, dressed in beautiful bright clothes, mingle and chat as they await the opening of the immunization clinic. Other people gather at a window to register for their insurance and make an appointment for a consultation. Slowly, the open area outside the clinic begins to fill as people wait for their appointments, strangely quiet in comparison to the hustle and bustle in other parts of the center. Men, women, children, the old and the young come to the health center for a myriad of reasons. Not only is the immunization clinic a draw, but there is also a clinic focused on HIV/AIDS. Mothers bring young children, many suffering from malnourishment, diarrhea, and stunting - hair falling out and bellies bloated - for tests, treatment, and preventative advice. They meet with the clinic workers who have been mentored and trained by Health Builders to provide the best possible care. Another part of the clinic hosts the laboratory, where patients are tested for malaria and, if positive, are not only treated for the illness but also educated on and provided resources for preventative measures. More concerning, and significantly increasing, are the mental health issues that are manifesting in physical maladies. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased isolation for this already vulnerable community, with limited access to the technology and entertainment that many people around the world have used to distract themselves from the crisis. Not only are people in rural Rwanda concerned about catching the virus, but the psychological toll is causing increased drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
Although people come to the health care center because of all types of illness, ranging from mild to extremely serious, the centers are still a place of hope. Preventative measures help mitigate long-term problems, and education empowers people to take their own health care seriously. The center is a hub of activity, a robust and busy place filled with dedicated health care workers and staff committed to providing care to the people of their community. It hasn’t always been like this. For many years, health centers were few and far between, and the ones that were accessible had workers who lacked knowledge, education, resources, technology, and facilities that left them with limited ability to provide the most appropriate and best care possible.
It is organizations like Health Builders, working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health and local governments, that have changed and strengthened the overall health system in Rwanda. One region, one community, one clinic at a time, Health Builders has been working since 2007 to paint the picture: every person in Rwanda accessing high quality health care, allowing them to live dignified, healthy, and prosperous lives.
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