How Has Rwanda Saved the Lives of 590,000 Children?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In 2000, one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals committed the world to reduce child mortality rates by September 2015. At the time, out of every 1,000 live births, an average of 90 children died before the age of five.

Now the average is just 46. The UN says 17,000 fewer children are dying every day. Unicef called this “one of the most significant achievements in human history”.

And one of the biggest success stories is Rwanda. Between 2000 and 2015, it achieved the highest average annual reduction in both the under-five mortality rate and the maternal mortality ratio in the world. The UN estimates that 590,000 children have been saved.

So how did Rwanda do it? And could other nations follow its example? Four experts spoke to the BBC World Service Inquiry programme.

“After the genocide, the government’s priority was security. We then started to develop the programme of reduction of maternal mortality, child mortality, and began to see progress in 2005.

“We had four top killers – malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia, and malnutrition – diseases which can be treated by simple intervention. So we selected 45,000 community health workers at each village so when the children are sick, instead of spending one or two hours going to a health facility, the community health workers can give the treatment in less than 10 minutes.

“They are elected by the community. The only criteria we give is they can read and write. We give them basic training like how to screen for malaria, how to take temperatures, how to check respiration. For complicated treatment, they are obliged to transfer patients to the health facility.”

Source: BBC (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases