President Kagame meets UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson (left) and Prof. Jeffrey Sachs (centre) in Addis Ababa, 16th July 2012 (Photo by PPU Rwanda)
President Paul Kagame said on Thursday at the World Economic Forum that Rwanda’s ambitious efforts to provide health workers for the remotest villages across the country has been attained, but added that more work remains.
Speaking at the launching the ‘One Million Community Health Workers’ for Africa campaign, the President said Rwanda has “trained 47,000 health workers and today the whole country is covered”.
“We have also used information and technology infrastructure to improve efficiency of community health workers,” said Kagame, adding: “Community health workers is something we have had experience with and we have seen the very good results.”
President Kagame and Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez joined Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs in announcing the campaign, which will be overseen by a steering committee at the Earth Institute and will be run through the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network as part of its Solutions Initiative. The campaign is also supported by the UN MDG Advocates and the UN Broadband Commission, both of which are co-chaired by President Kagame.
“We are more than happy to be part of this not only because it serves us but it serves the people of Africa,” said the President.
“As President of Rwanda and Co-chair of the Millennium Development Goals Advocates Group and the ITU/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Development, I wholeheartedly endorse the ‘One Million Community Health Worker Campaign’ to scale up community health workers throughout Africa.”
Rwanda is divided into 5 Provinces, 30 Districts, 416 Sectors, 2.148 Cells and 14.837 villages. The trained health workers, who are trained to provide basic help before the patients are taken to hospitals, add up to more than three on average for every village in the country.
President Kagame said: “We have seen in Rwanda the ability of community health workers to improve public health and believe that this initiative can serve the cause of public health throughout Africa. This campaign will support many ongoing public-private partnerships, United Nations initiatives, and African Union efforts to meet the health Millennium Development Goals.”
At the event today January 24, 2013, Novartis CEO Jimenez announced that Novartis will donate $1 million to support the training and development of the cadre of new health workers.
In Africa, around 10 percent of children die before reaching the age of five. Maternal death rates are high. Many people suffer unnecessarily from preventable and treatable diseases, from malaria and diarrhea to tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Many of these residents would otherwise have little or no access to the most fundamental aspects of modern medicine. Many countries are struggling to make progress toward the health-related Millennium Development Goals partly because so many people live in rural areas beyond the reach of modern health care.
“The campaign will transform health care delivery across the continent and help some of the world’s poorest nations meet the health related Millennium Development Goals,” said Sachs. “We are proud to be working with Novartis to launch this campaign and to work with African leaders to develop huge new cadres of community health workers to reach the rural populations.”
Community health worker programs have been in place for a number of years, through government health programs and other non-governmental initiatives, like the Millennium Villages Project. In addition to providing basic treatment and preventative care, the health workers keep track of disease outbreaks, overall public health and offer a vital link to the broader health care system of doctors, nurses, hospitals and clinics.
While they have limited clinical training, the health workers are supervised by more clinically skilled members of the health care system. Scaling in this way allows an opportunity to tailor the program to each nation’s particular needs and systems.
The new campaign will work with governments and aid agencies to finance and train the cadre of health workers, each of whom would each serve an average of 650 rural inhabitants, at an estimated cost of $6.58 per patient per year. This adds up to an estimated $2.5 billion, which includes funding already being spent by NGOs and governments on these programs. These estimates fall within projected governmental health budgetary constraints and are within the boundaries of donor assistance already pledged and anticipated.