15 January 2013

Rwanda: Officials to Take Into Account Urban Health Issues

City dwellers need special attention in terms of health care due to the fact that urbanization is likely to pose a lot of health challenges, experts have warned.

Statistics indicate that population of Kigali is expected to double by 2020 to around 2 million inhabitants compared to 1.2 million today. According to experts, this will result in increasing demand for basic health services but also pressure on the environment.

"Urbanization is a challenge for several reasons even if it's an engine for development," remarked mayor Fidel Ndayisaba.

City authorities say the EDPRS II will focus on urbanization as an engine of development and kick out poverty, yet at the same time, fast urban population growth comes with increased health risks due to water scarcity, environment degradation, non-communicable diseases and related risk factors like unhealthy diet and physical inactivity among others.

"Urbanization creates both health and environment challenges," pointed out Marc Pecsteen, the Belgian ambassador, during a workshop on Urban Health Development for city officials, health professionals and members of the civil society.

According to Hope Tumukunde, the vice mayor in charge of social affairs, the workshop was intended to assess a four-year project, "institutional support program to the conception and implementation of the strategic health development plan of the city of Kigali," that the city developed and implemented jointly with the Belgium's support.

"We want to assess what we have achieved during the four-year experience and highlight lessons learnt that can be adopted in the coming years," Tumukunde explained, adding that the project was the first of its kind where policy makers take into account health issues caused by urbanization.

According to officials, the joint venture contributed to capacity development through training of bio-medical technicians and services providers in health facilities, constructed and equipped four new health centers meeting all national and international standards while other existing facilities were rehabilitated to improve health care.

Among other achievements, the project strengthened the public-private partnership in health services through data collection and training with the decision of the government to facilitate the private sector to continue expanding.

The private health sector is currently estimated at 70% in the City and it is around 30% in other districts of the country.

The project also elaborated a strategic plan for solid waste management in Kigali and undertook a study on waste collection and management.

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