A Commitment to Equity and Access

By Dr. Diane Gashumba, Minister of Health, Ministry of Health of Rwanda

Rwanda is a family planning (FP) success story in recent history.

The first decade of the 2000s witnessed a dramatic rise in the country’s contraceptive prevalence rate for modern methods and a drop in the total fertility rate from 6.1 percent in 2000 to 4.6 percent in 2010. In recent years, we have invested in our network of more than 58,000 community health workers, generated communications campaigns to drive demand and behavior change and provided training on long-acting and permanent contraceptive methods. Our continued commitment to FP is a way to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for the sustainable development of the Rwandan people and for the world.

Rwanda’s sustained focus on strengthening health systems has improved preventive service coverage. We’ve increased immunization coverage to 95 percent. We’ve reduced the national maternal mortality rate and the infant mortality rate; we’ve stabilized the HIV prevalence at 3 percent since 2005, and increased life expectancy from 49 years in 2000 to a record 66.7 years in 2017. We’re proud that Rwanda was the first country to initiate routine HPV vaccination for young girls and, today, has the highest vaccine coverage globally at 93 percent.

We’ve tapped into innovative drone delivery systems to deliver blood products throughout the country to pave new pathways to safe and sufficient blood and blood products. This has helped reduce rates of death and disability due to severe bleeding during delivery and after childbirth. Rwanda ranks among only 11 countries in Africa implementing a 100 percent voluntary nonremunerated blood donation program, according to the WHO 2013 survey on the status of blood safety in the WHO African Region.

We commit to leaving no one behind when it comes to accessing health services. That’s why, in 2000, we created a national community-based health insurance scheme to improve a patient’s financial risk and healthcare accessibility by decreasing out-of-pocket payments. Since implementation, nine in 10 Rwandans now have health insurance coverage.

Under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s political will is driven toward a commitment of universal health coverage. With a people-centered national foundation that values equity and sustainable development, Rwanda’s commitment to achieving FP targets, as well as a reduction in maternal and newborn deaths, is unwavering.

The Government of Rwanda is privileged to host the fifth International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) and extends a very warm welcome to its more than 3,500 delegates. It has been a unique and exciting journey to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We are excited to host the world’s largest scientific conference on reproductive health in Rwanda to continue our collective work and learn from each other’s experiences to identify innovative methods to reach the FP goals.

Rwanda’s values of equity and increased access align deeply with ICFP’s overarching goal. This ICFP will serve as a strategic inflection point that will provide an opportunity for political leaders, scientists, researchers, policymakers, advocates and youth to disseminate knowledge, celebrate successes and identify next steps toward reaching the goal of enabling an additional 120 million women and girls access to voluntary, quality contraception by 2020. Nationally, and globally, we will come together during ICFP to explore pathways forward to reach success.

We welcome you to Kigali and look forward to the innovative, productive sessions ahead.

Banner image: © PSI/Kim Case Burns

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