The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Kagame in One Million Health Workers Crusade

President Paul Kagame yesterday joined renowned global personalities in unveiling a 'One Million Community Health Workers Campaign' to scale up workforce across the continet.

The President was joined by Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez and Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs in announcing the campaign at the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The campaign aims to increase the number of health workers in Africa, which will be overseen by a steering committee at the Earth Institute and will be run through the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

"As President of Rwanda and Co-chair of the Millennium Development Goals Advocates Group and the UNESCO Broadband Commission for Development, I wholeheartedly endorse the 'One Million Community Health Workers Campaign' to scale up community health across Africa," President Kagame said.

The effort is also supported by the UN MDG Advocates and the UN Broadband Commission, both of which are co-chaired by President Kagame.

Kagame added, "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, UN initiatives, and African Union efforts to meet the health Millennium Development Goals."

He 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," Kagame said, adding, "Use of community health workers is something we have had experience with and we have seen the good results. We are more than happy to be part of this not only because it serves us, but it serves the people of Africa."

Novartis to donate:

At the event yesterday, Jimenez announced that Novartis will donate $1m to support training and development of cadre health workers.

In Africa, around 10 per cent of children die before reaching the age of five. Maternal mortality rates are high. Many people die from preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and HIV/Aids.

"The campaign will transform healthcare delivery across the continent and help some of the world's poorest nations meet 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 new cadres of community health workers to reach the rural populations."

In Rwanda, health worker programmes have been in place for many years through government health programmes and other non-governmental initiatives, such as 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 healthcare system of professionals.

The new campaign will work with governments and aid agencies to finance and train the health workers, who would serve an average of 650 rural populace, at an estimated $6.58 (Rwf4,000) per patient per year.

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