The New Times (Kigali)

25 February 2013

Rwanda: Health Centre Brings Hope to Gishubi Sector

GISHUBI SECTOR might be one of the remotest areas in Gisagara district - or perhaps in the entire country-but its residents count themselves among the happiest, at least for today.

For so many years, residents in the area have been living without access to basic infrastructure, like water, electricity and health facilities.

But, today, that seems to be a thing of the past as the public goods have all been set up and residents are enjoying the benefits.

Just early this month, authorities in the area inaugurated a 6.1 kilometre clean water channel which serves over 5,400 residents. And, the area was for the first time connected to the national power grid.

However, for Gishubi residents, the construction of a health centre in the area remains one of the biggest achievements ever registered in the area.

Inaugurated about one and half year ago, Gishubi Health Centre serves over 24,000 residents in the area.

According to officials at the health facility, over 60 patients visit the health centre everyday and are treated several illness, mainly malaria and diseases related to poor hygiene, like diarrhoea.

According to residents, the health centre relieved them from the 'laborious task' they had to endure making longer distances to seek health services in distant areas.

Patients from the area seeking medical care used to walk for between one and three hours to access the nearest health centre, residents told The New Times.

"This had a negative impact on our health. Some people failed to timely report to health centres to get treatment and sometimes it cost their lives," said Providence Nishyirembere, 45, an area resident.

Attitude change

Just after a brief chat with area residents, you come to realise that memories of the 'bad moments' -as they call the times when there was no health centre in the area - still linger in their memories as if it was just one or two days ago.

They still remember how they used to trek long distances, sometimes transporting patients on a traditional stretcher or how some people resorted to traditionalists and witchdoctors for treatment instead of seeking appropriate medication.

The statement is corroborated by health officials in the area.

"Today, things have changed a lot. The moment you feel bad, is the moment you report to the health centre for treatment", Nishyirembere says emphasising that today it takes her less than ten minutes to get to the health facility.

As she clutches her child inside the health centre, Jeannette Mukamana, another area resident, says she feels the benefits brought by the setting up of the facility.

"I used to walk for three hours to get medical assistance. It was very laborious for me," the woman narrates.

Then, she goes on: "Today, it is a totally different story for my family. The health centre sits just close to our home"

"It is a new life and a new experience for us," Mukamana adds.

Jean Paul Hagenimana, the Health Centre Director, told The New Times that ever since the facility was set up, people's health has been improving.

He cites the fall in infant and maternal deaths, the increase in numbers of mothers delivering at hospital and the rise in the number of people using family planning methods as some of the benefits which came with the facility.

"For instance, 72 per cent of the population have embraced family planning which is higher than before [the health facility was built", he stated.

Asked where the numbers stood before, Hagenimana could not get specific numbers.

"It was very hard to get such numbers in this specific area as residents from here used to seek medical assistance from various health centres in the district while others did not", he explained.

"But what we are sure of is that the numbers [of people who have embraced family planning] have significantly increased".

The official said, however, that the health centre is still faced with the lack of enough equipment and enough personnel-only five nurses are posted at the health centre.

The lack of its own ambulance also impacts on the quality of their services, especially when it comes to transferring a patient to a hospital for further treatment, Hegenimana added.

Gisagara district Mayor Leandre Karekezi promised continued support and advocacy for the health centre and others which are still under-equipped or understaffed.

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