by Richard KARUGARAMA Lebero
On 7th April, Rwanda marks 20 years since the 1994 genocide. A lot has been written about Rwanda’s journey and, as is to be expected, much of the commentary is misleading, lacking sufficient understanding of the extent to which Rwanda has been transformed over the last 20 years.
This year’s theme – unite, remember and renew – aptly reminds us to commit ourselves towards ensuring that genocide never happens in any part of the world.
We also have the opportunity to reflect on Rwanda’s transformation and deliberate upon the lessons post conflict countries can draw from its resilience.
The narrative of Rwanda’s past is one of anger and pain. Starting from the colonial period and stretching up to the 1994 genocide,Rwanda was a deeply divided society entrenched with the scourge of ethnic politics and bad leadership.
Although the colonialists did not invent the Hutu and Tutsis ethnic identities (historically the labels existed), colonial intervention changed the meaning, practice and importance attached to these labels.
Following the 1994 genocide, modern Rwanda articulated and implemented a vision of co-existence between Hutus, Tutsis and Twa which emphasizes the virtues of being Rwandan.
The dividends from collective reconciliation and nation rebuilding have resulted in unprecedented social, economic and political transformation.
Rwanda’s rebirth is by all measures remarkable considering that for over five decades it was characterized by systemic governance failures, authoritarian rule, entrenched ethnic tensions, corruption and a spiral of extra judicial killings.
Indeed, the failure of state institutions to galvanise citizens into productive means of labour and the use of government structures as instruments of social disharmony, culminated in the horrors of 1994 and the loss of one million lives.
Twenty years after the genocide Rwanda is experiencing significant improvement in poverty levels, women and youth empowerment, transparency and accountability, democratic governance, respect for the rule of law and a profound mindset shift towards self-reliance.
The depth of reforms and the increasing levels of efficiency are well captured in numerous governance and business surveys conducted periodically by reputable institutions.
On the basis of the reforms, Rwanda ranks favorably across most indicators. For instance, in the 2014 World Bank ‘Doing Business Report’, Rwanda is ranked as the second most improved country in the world and the second easiest place to do business in Africa.
Despite evident improvement in social well being, modern Rwanda regularly witnesses unprecedented attacks – some commentators arguing that economic development has been achieved at the expense of human rights.
Historically, this type of commentary is not unprecedented and is well illustrated by the experience of Singapore – once accused of trading off human rights for economic prosperity.
But Singapore’s journey from third world to first world country demonstrates that the one size fit all approach to democracy and human rights barely makes a dent in the challenge of improving the material state of people’s lives.
As Professor Kishore Mahbubani correctly argues, economic development is the only force with the power to liberate the Third World. In essence, human rights can only be enjoyed when people are liberated from the scourge of hunger, insecurity, disease and poverty.
It is also too simplistic to argue that emerging countries such as Rwanda are advancing economically at the expense of human rights. The premise of this argument overlooks the fact that strides in economic development are intertwined with respect for human rights.
The two are not mutually exclusive as there can be no economic development without the respect and protection of fundamental freedoms.
The philosophical underpinning of human rights is both controversial and ambiguous because protection of fundamental rights means different things in different parts of the world.
The most recent Gallup poll best illustrates this point; it ranks Rwanda as the safest place to live in Africa with 92% of ordinary Rwandans feeling safe and secure. Additionally, the poll shows that among African countries, Rwanda is the safest place for women to flourish.
Even without the Gallup survey, Rwanda’s respect for gender equality is unprecedented – 64% of Rwanda’s parliament is constituted by women (the highest globally). Moreover, the Constitution stipulates that for all leadership positions, women must constitute a minimum of 30%.
The trust and confidence ordinary Rwandans place in state institutions to guarantee security, law and order extends to other important rights such as privacy, life and dignity which are cornerstones of human existence.
It is only through guaranteeing respect for the rule of law and a peaceful environment that people are able to freely exercise their right to dignity, privacy, life and freedom of expression.
Put succinctly, personal liberties do not operate in a vacuum – such rights are meaningless without a certain level of development. Indeed, over the last twenty years, modern Rwanda has strived to lift ordinary people out of poverty because only when people have been liberated from it can they fully enjoy personal liberties.
Source: African Arguments
by Gitura MWAURA
Photo: Multimillionaire Bill Gates (onlinegadgetstore.com)
Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of an American multinational software giant, Microsoft, has made a bold prediction in his 2014 Gates Annual Letter.
By 2035, he suggests, there will be almost no poor countries left in the world. There are those who would not like to believe him, which he attributes to three myths. The first myth, he says, is the belief that poor countries are doomed to stay poor. The second myth is the notion that foreign aid is a big waste, with the third suggesting that saving lives leads to overpopulation.
Looked at closely, the second and third myths affirm the first, or feed from the first, and vice versa. “The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful,” Gates writes.
That anyone should hold the belief that “life in Africa never gets better, and it never will,” he describes it as a most pernicious version of the first myth.
To dispel the myth he looks at the available facts, pointing out that countries supposedly doomed to remain poor have not stayed poor.
“The percentage of very poor people has dropped by more than half since 1990,” he observes.
He notes that gross domestic product (GDP) which, on average describes annual income per person, has risen in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 50 years, while seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.
While the annual income per person in a country such as Ethiopia is $800 (RwF 545,000), Botswana has a GDP of $12,000 (Rwf 8,160,000). But on average across Africa, “after plummeting during the debt crisis of the 1980s, (the GDP) has climbed by two thirds since 1998, to nearly $2,200 from just over $1,300.”
Africa, he writes, has also made big strides in health and education. Since 1960, the life span for women in sub-Saharan Africa has gone up from 41 to 57 years, despite the HIV epidemic. Without HIV it would be 61 years.
The percentage of children in school has gone from the lowly 40s to over 75 percent since 1970.
With such gains one can see why it is a myth that life in Africa never gets better, and never will.
On the second myth, that foreign aid is a big waste, Gates points out that the “aid breeds dependency” argument misses all the countries that have graduated from being aid recipients, and focuses only on the most difficult remaining cases.
He lists former major recipients that hardly receive any aid today: Botswana, Morocco, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, Mauritius, Singapore, and Malaysia.
South Korea, he observes, received enormous amounts of aid after the Korean War, and is now a net donor. China is also a net aid donor and funds a lot of science to help developing countries. India receives 0.09 percent of its GDP in aid, down from 1 percent in 1991.
These are persuasive arguments, which, with the healthy dose of optimism that he displays makes one see why he believes that there will be almost no poor countries left in the world in the next twenty years.
What about the myth that saving lives leads to overpopulation?
He enumerates the achievements then puts them in a historical perspective: A baby born in 1960 had an 18 percent chance of dying before her fifth birthday. For a child born today, the odds are less than 5 percent. In 2035, they will be 1.6 percent.
Does this imply saving lives can be a negative thing, say, overpopulation?
The irony is that saving lives doesn’t lead to overpopulation. In fact, he notes, it’s quite the opposite. Creating societies where people enjoy basic health, relative prosperity, fundamental equality, and access to contraceptives is the only way to secure a sustainable world.
Rwanda provides an apt example. Limiting reproduction started by helping women seize control of their own lives. In a span of only 5 years, from 2005 to 2010, the fertility rate decreased from 6.1 children per woman in Rwanda to 4.6 children.
Perhaps Bill Gates has a point.
The writer is a commentator on local and regional affairs.
by Ivan R. MUGISHA,
Photo: President Kagame addresses participants at the Kenya Governors’ Summit organised by the Nation Media Group in Naivasha, Kenya, yesterday. Kagame urged African leaders to do more for the common citizens than to talk. ((Source: The New Times/ Village Urugwiro)
President Paul Kagame has said Africans and their leaders need to work hard to ensure the continent’s rightful place on the global stage.
He was speaking yesterday in Naivasha, Kenya at an event dubbed the ‘Governors’ Summit’ organised by the Nation Media Group-an occasion that gave the country’s governors an opportunity to take stock of the last eight months they have been in power under a devolved governance system.
The President said for Africans to claim their rightful place on matters that concern the continent and the world at large, they need to spend more time on actions than words.
“People speak of the African renaissance or Africa Rising – all these mean a lot and I want to believe them. But I ask myself hard questions, like why wasn’t the previous one Africa’s century? What stopped Africa from claiming its rightful place during past periods?” he posed.
The Rwandan leader added: “There are more meaningful things to be done than to be said. We need to do more; be honest with ourselves, and have the courage to face our challenges upfront.
“We have to make sure we fulfill the hope Africans have for our continent.”
Kagame hailed the East African Community (EAC), for placing the interests of its citizens right at the heart of the regional integration agenda.
But he urged regional leaders to do more.
“The overwhelming positive reaction from our citizens in this framework of cooperation is proof that we have common aspirations that transcend our individual countries. The people of East Africa want to trade together and to get opportunities that come with strengthening regional collaboration. It is up to the leaders to find ways to deliver on these expectations.”
Kagame said that leaders in the region had a duty to be accountable to individuals beyond their respective borders in order to enhance EAC integration process.
Kagame shared Rwanda’s governance and decentralisation experience following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and encouraged Kenya’s county government to place more emphasis on homegrown solutions that prioritise the wellbeing and aspirations of the people of Kenya.
He said interventions that respond to the unique situations of a country and the needs of its people deliver development visions faster.
Kagame also took questions in an interactive question-and-answer session which touched on his personal journey into top leadership positions and how Rwanda managed to forge ahead after suffering from the most brutal genocide in recorded history – the infamous 100 days of slaughter that claimed the lives of more than a million people.
“Together with the rest of East Africa, Rwanda stands with Kenya as you embark on the important work of implementing a governance framework that will deliver to your citizens,” Kagame told the governors and other participants.
Kagame added: “This new beginning should be a unique opportunity to use your own homegrown solutions to achieve and sustain the goals of your respective counties and ultimately to attain your national vision.”
The President said although each country is unique in its own way, African governments shared common aspirations and challenges, which provide an opportunity to learn from each other.
“We can adopt and adapt beneficial practices and sidestep pitfalls to guarantee the wellbeing of our people and build successful nations. To begin with, it is up to us to put in place a leadership and governance that is based on local needs and is people centered. This is the first step in fostering community prosperity, which in turn will create confident and self-reliant nations,” he explained.
Drawing from Rwanda’s home-based initiatives like Umuganda (monthly community service), the Rwandan leader urged Kenyan governors to devise cost effective schemes that involve citizens in nation building.
For example, he said, if you don’t need donors to keep a clean house then you don’t need any to keep a clean country. “In the business of government, there isn’t anything that doesn’t involve citizens. We continue to learn that sustained frank dialogue between leaders and citizens at all levels, is the only way national goals can be achieved, even with limited material resources.”
“Failure to respond to the needs of our people will inevitably result in stagnation, instability and, eventually, jeopardise sovereignty – but we have the ability to prevent such outcomes.”
Other speakers at the forum included Isaac Ruto, Governor of Bomet and Chair of the Kenya Governors’ Council, Philip Kinisu, Chairman Governance Board, PwC Africa, Linus Gitahi, Group CEO, Nation Media Group, and Prof. Olive Mugenda, Vice Chancellor, Kenyatta University.
Kenya swore in 47 elected county governors in a new government structure in March last year. The structure is provided for under the new 2010 constitution.
The county governments are expected to decentralise service provision and resource distribution and to involve citizens’ participation in government affairs.
Source: The New Times
Work With the People, Kagame Tells Leaders
by Francis MUREITHI, 21.1.2014, The Star
Rwanda President Paul Kagame has asked governors from the 47 counties to involve locals in deciding on new policies. Kagame told the governors to embrace consultations with the locals and involve them in any measure taken to address the challenges facing the counties… read more
by Dias NYESIGA
Photo: German Ambassador Peter Fahrenholtz and Minister of Finance Claver Gatete (File photo)
Germany is optimistic that Rwanda’s approach to develop technical skills will register success in shaping the economy into middle income, considering the current strides the country has already taken.
Peter Fahrenholtz, the German ambassador to Rwanda, says that Rwanda’s holistic approach towards investing in developing all skills without specializing is the right approach in addressing the country’s skills challenge.
The country is looking at developing technical and vocational skills to address the challenge of skilled labor and boost the budding private sector mainly in enterprise, industry, and service sectors.
“Investing in all technical and vocational skills will help the country solve the problem of lack of skilled labor force,” he said during the signing of RWF 9.8 billion financing agreement between Rwanda and Germany.
Germany, through its German Development Bank, has extended financing worth RWF 9.8 billion enshrined in two financing project agreements for Technical and Vocational Education Training and decentralization.
Experts believe that to achieve its ambitious target of middle income by 2020, Rwanda needs to invest much in vocational skills development that are needed to supply the growing industry sector.
“Rwanda is trying its best to promote skills development that can sustain economic development”, Claver Gatete, Minister of Finance said.
With its strategy to boost the industry sector, the government is setting up model processing industries throughout the country in an effort to boost the growth of industries that would increase value addition in the country’s exports.
“In Germany, we value much traditionally the work people do with their hands. When you become a master in your craft after vocational training, you are open to earning more money and you are respected in the society,” Fahrenholtz said.
“The big part of this funding will go to TVET, and the purpose is to increase the number of qualified graduates in the selected TVET institutions, said Gatete, adding that the other portion of funding will go to support continued priority development and infrastructure projects in all districts in the country.
According to the agreements signed between the two countries last week, RWF 6.3 billion will go to supporting Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) banking on selected institutions while RWF 3.6 billion, will support continued priority development and infrastructure projects in all districts in the country.
The funds will be channeled through the Rwanda Local Development Support Fund, which will be tasked to help build capacities of districts in project preparation, planning, monitoring and evaluation, and budgeting processes to ensure effective utilization of the funding.
“This funding is really important to our economy considering it is going to help the entire infrastructure,” Minister Gatete said.
Since 2006, the German Development Bank has contributed RWF 21 billion to support decentralization through local infrastructure investments that include roads and bridges, markets and terracing, health centers, and institutions of learning.
GUARDIAN GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT NETWORK (London)
Photo: Arne Hodalic/UNHCR
by Mary ROBINSON 12. August 2013
Women have suffered most as a result of conflict in DRC and the Great Lakes region – their voices must be heard
Not a week goes by without reports of fresh fighting in the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Violence and destruction have ravaged the Great Lakes region of Africa for two decades, claiming more than 5 million lives. Yet the situation rarely makes the headlines.
What strikes me is the lack of outrage and horror, particularly given the disproportionate impact the conflict is having on women and children. As I asked the UN security council last month, how can we accept a situation where rape and sexual violence – which, let us be clear, are war crimes – have become the norm?
When Ban Ki-moon asked me to become his special envoy for the Great Lakes in March, I felt a particular responsibility to the mothers, daughters and grandmothers who – since my first visit to the region, as president of Ireland in 1994 – have shared with me what they have suffered in Bujumbura, Bukavu, Goma, Kigali or Kinshasa.
In 20 years of killings, rape, destruction and displacement, these women have suffered most. Yet I believe they are the region’s best hope for building lasting peace. My job now, and the job of the international community, is to support them in every way we can.
Women’s voices should not only be heard because they are the victims of the war. Their active participation in peace efforts is essential, because they are the most effective peace builders. As men take up arms, women hold communities together in times of war. This makes them stronger and better equipped to play a key role in securing real peace, as we have seen in Northern Ireland, Liberia and elsewhere.
My approach to peace-building involves not just political leaders, but all of civil society, including women. Without their full support and participation, no peace agreement can succeed. How many secret deals have been negotiated in the Great Lakes region, only to be ignored or forgotten by the signatories for lack of transparency and accountability?
I believe the peace, security and co-operation framework for the DRC and the region, signed in Addis Ababa in February 2013 by 11 African countries, provides an opportunity to do things differently. That is why I have called it a framework of hope. I have started to work on its implementation top-down, with the 11 heads of state who signed the agreement, and bottom-up, with the people of the region who will be its real beneficiaries.
As the first woman to be appointed UN special envoy, I have promised to ensure that women’s voices are heard at the negotiating table. Last month, with Femmes Africa Solidarité and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, we brought together more than 100 women from across the region – including the gender ministers of the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi – in Bujumbura. One upshot of the meeting has been to ensure the consequences of sexual violence are included in the benchmarks we are developing to measure progress in the implementation of the peace agreement.
I feel energised by the leadership shown by the women I met in Bujumbura.
They are taking full responsibility for peace, security and development in the region. Reaching across national borders, they are innovative, collegial and practical. I rely on them to hold their leaders to account for the full implementation of the framework of hope.
As special envoy, I will continue to support female-led initiatives. I am pleased the World Bank has allocated $150m (£98m) to finance gender-based projects, in addition to the $1bn already pledged for the region. I encourage the donor community to be even more strategic in its support of the framework of hope. It is crucial to demonstrate the economic benefits of a lasting peace based on development – what I call the peace dividend.
Almost six months after the signing of the peace agreement, armed groups are still roaming in eastern Congo, sowing terror and destruction. This is not acceptable. I have heard the region’s people voice their frustration and anger at the slow pace of change. However, I am confident that, with the support of civil society – including women – we can succeed in bringing peace to the region.
I have often heard my friend Desmond Tutu, a fellow member of the Elders, say: “I am not an optimist, I am a prisoner of hope.” The women of the Great Lakes are keeping my hope alive.
22 July 2013
Visiting Rwanda, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) highlighted approaches to end food insecurity in Africa that support local initiatives, long-term development and sustainability.
“Here in Rwanda, WFP is providing the life-saving food assistance that we are known for to tens of thousands of refugees, but we and our partners are also supporting community-based agriculture and livelihoods projects that assist the poorest and most vulnerable Rwandans as they build a brighter future for their families,” said the agency’s Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, at the end of her three-day visit to the country.
“When speaking with small-scale farmers and rural families, I could see very clearly the difference that rural development initiatives have made in helping people improve their lives.”
Ms. Cousin said the progress made on development in Rwanda illustrates the importance of close and effective partnerships between UN agencies, communities and government in helping in empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty.
“I met one woman farmer who started with nearly nothing, and now has become so successful that she’s been able to build her family a new house, and put her children though school,” said Ms. Cousin, who also met with displaced persons and refugees on both side of the border shared by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
During her visit, Ms. Cousin also visited the Nkamira refugee transit centre and a successful terracing and watershed management project in Rulindo district, in northern Rwanda. She also visited and spoke with farmers in eastern Rwanda who belong to an agricultural cooperative in Kirehe district through which they are selling their surplus maize and beans to WFP via the Purchase for Progress initiative, known as “P4P”.
P4P aims to use WFP’s purchasing power to help connect smallholder farmers to markets. In Rwanda, the programme has grown from a WFP project into a national initiative, boosting productivity and improving the lives and livelihoods of small-scale farmers.
Since 2011, WFP has purchased 33,000 metric tons of combined food commodities – maize and beans – worth $15.5 million, through a combination of P4P purchases and regular food procurement.
WFP and the Rwandan Government are also exploring ways to link the P4P programme to food-for-education initiatives, providing students with a daily school meal grown in their own communities and turn schools into regular customers for local farmers.
This was Ms. Cousin’s first visit to Rwanda as WFP Executive Director. While in the country, she also met with top Government officials, including Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, and with the heads of UN agencies in Rwanda.
More about the Purchase for Progress (P4P) Project
Connecting farmers to markets
As the world’s largest humanitarian agency, WFP is a major buyer of staple food. In 2012, WFP bought US$1.1 billion worth of food – more than 75 percent of this in developing countries. With the Purchase the Progress (P4P) initiative, WFP is taking this one step further. P4P uses WFP’s purchasing power and its expertise in logistics and food quality to offer smallholder farmers opportunities to access agricultural markets, to become competitive players in those markets and thus to improve their lives.
The five-year pilot initiative links WFP’s demand for staple food in 20 countries with the expertise of a host of partners who support farmers to produce food surpluses and sell them at a fair price. By 2013, at least half a million smallholder farmers will have increased and improved their agricultural production and earnings. By raising farmers’ incomes, P4P turns WFP’s local procurement into a vital tool to address hunger. Learn more
Source: allafrica.com, WFP
THE NEW TIMES
by Frank KANYESIGYE, 30 JUNE 2013
Photo: En Root Rwanda
President Paul Kagame has called upon Rwandans to continue participating in the monthly community work locally known as ‘Umuganda’ because it is one of the important drivers of the country’s development.
The Head of State made the remarks yesterday while addressing hundreds of residents of Nyarugunga Sector in Kicukiro District where he participated in community work.
Accompanied by other government officials, the President joined residents in the construction of a 2.5 kilometre road that connects to the village of ex-combatants in Nyarugunga Sector with the main Kigali-Kanombe road.
“Development is our priority and it will be achieved through self-reliance,” Kagame said, encouraging the people to carry on community work while they applauded in approval of his call.
Highlighting that development comes from positive thinking, the Head of State pointed out that the support towards the construction of Nyarugunga Primary School in Kanombe Sector resulted from the community work.
“One of the benefits of Umuganda was the construction of the school because the person who supported us to build the school came up with the initiative during community work. If we were not participating in Umuganda, we wouldn’t have got that support,” he explained.
He was referring to Ugandan President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who pledged US$300,000 (about Rwf193 million) towards construction works at Nyarugunga Primary School in Kanombe Sector. Museveni made the pledge at a community work to build classrooms in the area while he was on a State visit to Rwanda in July 2011.
“We Rwandans know our challenges and have the will to address them within our means. What we need is to put everything into practice, and nothing will stop us from realising our goals,” the President noted.
He said that in community work every Rwandan expresses their wish to develop their country and move forward for a better life.
Kagame explained that Umuganda should be a culture and nobody should remind anyone to participate in the activity since everyone is supposed to know its benefits.
“This is the support every Rwandan should give to their country because the benefits are immense and are for all Rwandans,” he said.
According to Paul Jules Ndamage, the Mayor of Kicukiro District, the work done towards the construction of the road during Umuganda is valued at about Rwf 5 million.
“We thank the Head of State for his continuous support during community work. His participation gives us courage and motivation to build our country,” the mayor said.
The road will help ex-combatants who live with disabilities to access both the main road and the Rwanda Military Hospital with ease, Ndamage said.
Theoneste Ndagijimana, one of the residents, appreciated that President Kagame took time off to join them at Umuganda.
“He is a great leader who works together with people to build the nation. I couldn’t believe seeing our president digging trenches. It was very exciting,” he said.
President Kagame Rallies Kicukiro Residents On Development
President Paul Kagame has hailed residents of Kicukiro for participating in various government developmental programs, urging them to maintain the momentum through hard work and cooperation.
Kagame made the call on Saturday while addressing thousands of the residents at Groupe Scolaire Camp Kanombe in Kamashashi cell in Nyarugunga where he participated in the end of the month community work.
President Kagame noted that any development in a country is based on the better mindset of its population and urged the residents after the community that they should always have a strong vision to further develop their district and the country as a whole.
“Every Rwandan should have the goal of contributing towards our national development but I also urge you as Rwandans to know that you should not wait for foreign support to develop the country but to rather use the available home grown solutions” President Kagame said. [read more…]
The Guttmacher Institute
(New York, NY)
Pregnant Ladies (file photo):
47 percent of all pregnancies in the country are unintended. (IRIN/Felicity Thompson)
30. April 2013
New York, Ny — Findings from the first national study on the incidence of unintended pregnancy and abortion in Rwanda show that nearly half (47%) of all pregnancies in the country are unintended. The report, “Unintended Pregnancy and Induced Abortion in Rwanda: Causes and Consequences,” was issued by the National University of Rwanda School of Public Health (NURSPH) and the Guttmacher Institute, which jointly conducted the study.
These unintended pregnancies are occurring despite the county’s remarkable progress in increasing contraceptive use over the last decade. In 2010, 44% of married or cohabiting Rwandan women were using a modern method of contraception, compared with just 4% in 2000. However, the increase in contraceptive use has not kept pace with the growing desire for smaller families and does not extend to the increasing proportion of unmarried young women who are sexually active.
In 2010, an estimated 19% of married women (250,000) and 56% of unmarried sexually active women 15-29 years old (40,000) had an unmet need for contraception–they wanted to avoid pregnancy but were not using a contraceptive method.
The findings were presented in Kigali on March 23 at a Family Planning Day event organized by NURSPH. The event brought together key stakeholders, including Ministry of Health officials, UN representatives, leading NGOs working on health issues and reproductive health advocates, who reviewed the most recent evidence on unintended pregnancy and unsafe abortion and developed a set of policy recommendations to better address the reproductive health needs of Rwandan women. Among these recommendations were expanding provision of postabortion care; making emergency contraception widely available throughout the country; better integrating family planning services and postabortion care; and educating women and medical and law-enforcement professionals about the conditions under which abortion is legal in Rwanda.
“The study’s findings indicate that Rwanda must build on the strong progress made over the last decade and further strengthen its family planning policies and programs,” said Paulin Basinga, formerly with NURSPH and lead author of the report. “Expanding the range of contraceptive options available to women and targeting those women who are at highest risk of unintended pregnancy are especially important if we are to reduce the rate of unplanned pregnancies in the country.”
The researchers found that approximately 22% of all unintended pregnancies end in induced abortion. Rwanda’s abortion rate–25 per 1,000 women of reproductive age–is significantly lower than that of Eastern Africa (38 per 1,000), and lower than that for the African continent as a whole (29 per 1000). Although the abortion rate is relatively low, abortion still places a heavy burden on Rwandan women and the health care system because virtually all abortions occur outside of the formal health system where safety cannot be assured.
In 2009, 24,000 of the approximately 60,000 women who had an abortion suffered complications that required medical treatment. Of these, just 17,000 received adequate treatment in a health facility; thus, 30% of the women who needed care did not receive it. According to the study, this was most likely a result of insufficient access to postabortion care and reluctance on the part of women to seek treatment, which could potentially expose them to harsh judgment or even prosecution for engaging in a stigmatized and illegal act.
Poor Rwandan women, in urban and rural areas, are far more likely to experience complications (54-55%) than wealthier women in both rural (38%) and urban areas (20%). According to experts surveyed, poor women are most likely to self-induce or rely on untrained providers such as traditional healers. Abortions from these sources have the highest estimated rate of complications–61-67%.
“The Rwandan government has already started to take action to improve access to postabortion care and we hope these findings provide further guidance on how to strengthen efforts to ensure that all Rwandan women receive the care they need,” said co-author Ann Moore of the Guttmacher Institute.
By Mutoni Karasanyi, 25 September 2012
In 1961, Chinese political leader Deng Xiaoping famously stated, “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a white cat or a black cat; a cat that catches mice is a good cat.”
These words marked a pragmatic path towards development, later resulting in nearly 30 years of economic growth of over 9 per cent, and most importantly, raising 400 million people out of poverty. As economist Jeffrey Sachs put it, “China is the most successful development story in world history.”
As the American presidential race heats up, this week both candidates have boasted about their anti-China efforts, while criticizing their opponent’s record for ‘losing’ American jobs to China. As economists argue about not if, but when (whether 2020 or 2030), China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy, politicians have, once again, manipulated Americans’ fears for their own political gain.
While many intellectual leaders, such as Thomas Friedman in his book “The World is Flat,” have encouraged Americans to focus on higher-paying, more innovative industries (finance, IT, software, etc.), the more common debate is over how to protect American farmers and factory workers from global competition. It’s ironic, therefore, that President Obama’s WTO case against China is over their protectionist policies.
Let’s be clear though. America’s growing fear of China has to do with much more than jobs, and involves maintaining their influence over the hearts and minds of people around the world. As an article in TIME magazine aptly stated, “China is not just competing with the U.S. in world markets, but offering up an entirely different economic and political system, one that at times seems better at creating growth and jobs… China is succeeding based on ideas that Americans despise.”
Nowhere has this ideological battle been more exaggerated than on the African continent, where China has already overtaken the US as Africa’s largest trading partner, with a trade volume of over $166 billion in 2011.
Western observers increasingly warn African leaders to be wary of China’s intentions and do more to capitalize on their investments. However, those on the ground have broken away from this false narrative to report on the ‘win-win’ partnerships China has forged through mutual respect and trust.
Currently, China is the largest, foreign owner of America’s debt, with over $1.3 billion (8 per cent) in US treasuries; yet, no one seems worried that China will begin influencing American politics. However, when China constructed a building for Rwanda’s foreign ministry in 2009, President Kagame was questioned about China’s influence by Fareed Zakaria; to which he replied, “If they have control over our foreign policy, it will be our failure… We should be free to transact business that is in the interests of Rwanda and those we transact business with. And it doesn’t matter where they come from!”
Indeed, whether in US dollars or in Chinese renminbi, an investment towards development is a good investment. When China builds shoe factories in Ethiopia, no one cries about ‘losing’ Chinese jobs, because they help make Chinese firms more competitive, just as Chinese factories have enabled American companies for decades. Thus, rather than illuminating China’s political intentions, the western pessimism towards China-Africa relations has only reflected its own political perspective. It all reminds me of another quote, this time by Marcus Aurelius, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”
Source: The New Times
Early this week, Rwanda hit its MDG4 (Millenium Development Goals) target on child mortality, according to a report from UNICEF, however it has also registered remarkable progress with MDG5.
Two-year-old Augustin, who is malnourished, eats a peanut paste mix at a UNICEF-supported health centre in DR Congo
MDG5 is about improving maternal health with a target of reducing by three quarters between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio and by achieving universal access to reproductive health by 2015.
Dr Fidel Ngabo, the Coordinator of Maternal and Child Health in the Ministry of Health stated that maternal deaths in Rwanda had greatly reduced as well.
“We came from 1071 maternal deaths to 476. Maternal deaths have reduced by 50 percent which is a tremendous achievement. We are still intensifying efforts to ensure that they reduce even further,” he said.
Doctor Ngabo said that more hospitals and maternities are being built to reduce maternal deaths.
He added that more women are also having safe births from health facilities and sleeping under treated mosquito nets. Nearly 7 in 10 deliveries occur at a health facility compared to 5 in 2007-2008.
Dr Ngabo said that Community Health Workers have also helped a great deal as they offer help to pregnant women.
“Community Health Workers have been given phones to call for quick medical intervention and ambulances whenever an expectant mother seems to have complications,” he said.
The Ministry of Health also launched a training program for Traditional Birth Attendants that teaches them basic nursing and midwifery skills, to reduce maternal and child deaths.
The training of the traditional birth attendants in rural areas helped reduce maternal mortality rate.
Doctor Ngabo urged the community to be more involved and participate in issues related to improving their health.
He noted that Rwanda used to have only one training school for midwives, but now has five.