We're Continuing to Fight COVID-19 in Rwanda

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how we work and interact with each other. Meanwhile, people are taking to the streets around the world to fight for racial justice.

The last month has seen major changes across the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how we work and interact with each other. Meanwhile, people are taking to the streets around the world to fight for racial justice.

We checked in with Michel Musilikare, Health Builders’ Country Director, to see how the team in Rwanda has been doing and the challenges presented by the pandemic.

How have you and the rest of the team been doing this past month?

In Kigali, we were in lockdown for more than a month. When the government eased restrictions in the beginning of May, people would go into the office totally scared. It was really difficult for them to get to work since buses were limiting the number of passengers and traveling on motorcycles was not allowed. But people were also excited to come back to work. Since our office is small, we alternate days to limit the number of people at any time, and everyone has to wear a mask.

There have been fewer than 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Rwanda. Are you still concerned about it spreading?

Early on, most of the cases were in Kigali. We are now seeing cases close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are worried that since restrictions on travel to most provinces were recently lifted, the virus could spread further. Most of the people living outside the capital are not even able to buy masks, so they are more vulnerable, and that is really concerning.

What is your biggest challenge right now?

Due to restrictions limiting travel from the capital to the provinces, we haven’t been able to visit our health centers. That means all our ongoing projects have been delayed. Another challenge is that some of our donors have put funding on hold during the pandemic. We really appreciate the generous support of our donors, which helps us provide crucial services to more than 5,700 community health workers as well as 52 health centers across the country — each of which serves up to 24,000 people. With their help, we can continue to fight the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.

Program officer Immaculate Kyarisiima and monitoring and evaluation assistant Denyse Bucyedusenge at the Health Builders office in Kigali.

An update on our work

In addition to our regular work of supporting health centers in Rwanda, we have been working on a number of projects to curb the spread of COVID-19:

  • We have developed a 20-point preparedness assessment to help health centers evaluate how ready they are to deal with potential COVID-19 cases. We continue to check in with health centers and perform ongoing evaluations.
  • At the end of March, we checked in with our health centers to see whether they had adequate personal protective equipment, such as masks and gowns. We found out that 48 out of 52 health centers did not. We advocated on their behalf to the Rwandan Ministry of Health and were able to ensure that all of them received the supplies they needed.
  • We are assisting the Ministry of Health with its contact tracing efforts by providing three of our vehicles and drivers. The vehicles are used to transport tests for people who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 and drive recovered patients home from the hospital.
  • We are working to provide masks for more than 5,700 community health workers in the districts that we support. They are often the first source of contact for sick people but unlike health center staff do not have personal protective equipment. We are in touch with a local cooperative that can potentially produce the reusable cloth masks but are in need of additional funding to purchase them.
We have instructed health centers, such as this one Nyakigezi, to have patients practice social distancing while waiting.
We have instructed health centers, such as this one Nyakigezi, to have patients practice social distancing while waiting.

We need your help

Despite the uncertainty COVID-19 has brought to Rwanda and other countries, Health Builders remains steadfast in our commitment to support our 52 health centers and the communities they serve. We know we have a solid foundation on which to work as we face the new challenges the pandemic has brought us. As always, your support helps us achieve our mission and has a direct and immediate impact for thousands of people in rural Rwanda. Although we know there are many worthy causes to consider during the COVID-19 pandemic, we appreciate your donation to Health Builders. We are raising money to support our ongoing efforts as well as provide masks to more than 5,700 community health workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

Please donate today.