By George Kalisa in Kigali
True. Weak economies, bad governance, chronic insecurity and political instability, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa will certainly have a great impact on the way States and Governments respond to the COVID-19, and are set to receive a big share of the havoc wreaked pandemic.
The outside world has praised Rwanda, the first African nation to distribute relief to the most vulnerable citizens affected by the pandemic. Since March28 when local leaders distributed essential items to vulnerable households in the City of Kigali where 60 Coronavirus cases had been identified by then, no case was in critical conditions with nearly all patients living with hope of recovery, reported Rwanda’s Health Ministry.
Since the distribution of food from granaries managed by Rwanda’s National Strategic Grain Reserve under the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources kicked off, awash mostly the international media was this heroic action.
To Rwandan citizens and people living here was not news. Absolutely, it wasn’t news to them in every sense of the word because the 2003 Constitution amended in 2010 safeguards social justice. Apart from having structures and policies, it has become a culture to provide for the most vulnerable segment of the Rwandan population.
The structures and policies that enable the GoR carry the poorer of the poor under its wings are part of a long list of homegrown solutions rooted in the Rwandan culture that H.E President Paul Kagame conceived in response to the challenges he inherited after stopping the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
More than one million Tutsi were killed and Rwandan economy devastated beyond recovery. And, to stand to its feet again, moving forward until it graduated to the second fasted growing economy position, just behind Mauritius needed selfless leadership, creativity and innovations, boldness, which ensured no one is left behind, a departure from the genocide regimes that shrived on divisionism along ethnicity lines and genocide ideology.
The immediate years of post-genocide Rwanda were defined by grinding poverty, high levels of malnutrition, mortality rates of children below five years of age and of pregnant mothers among a horde of ‘ground-shaking’, immeasurable challenges that the resilient RPF-Inkotanyi led government of National Unity faced with workable approaches, which were later constitutionalized.
For instance, one cow per poor family programme dubbed Girinka was introduced to uplift the wellbeing of the poor households.
Thus, this piece is intended for people outside Rwanda who saw the weekend relief to the people most affected by the Coronavirus pandemic as news. And, this article doubles as a dedication to my sister Leah Karegeya, RNC terrorist organization and her friends in this terrorist and rebel outfit who think a country is run scrupulous. She said:
“Since they say that the Rwandan population is 12 Million, can’t Kagame find 12 Million Frw and give 1 Million to every Rwandan citizen, which they can live with for a whole year”?
I don’t know how I can categorize this comment and the author. Someone help me. Could it be poor Mathematics, a joke or obsession to criticize President Kagame even in her dreams? A Rwandan who yearns to offer alternative leadership – apparently doubts the population of the country “since they say…”. Who says so?
In my previous article titled: “Rwanda’s itch to beat Coronavirus eclipses rising economic pains – the dead do no business”, ran by The Light Magazine,I expressed willingness to donate COVID-19 test kits to your brother, Dr. David Himbara, a high profile propagandist in RNC, for his weird FB attacks on Kigali in the wake of the pandemic. And, I will pay tuition fee for your Mathematics coaching classes. You have shamed Rwandans and you’re a disgrace to them and the Rwandan women, indeed.
Anyway, other people-centred programmes that are an integral part of the homegrown solutions that directly or otherwise carry the vulnerable Rwandan citizens under government’s wings include; Igikoni cy’Umudugudu” literary meaning a village kitchen which fights malnutrition in households, Umuganda (community work), Gacaca, Agaciro Development Fund (a pool of funds raised from voluntary contributions from Rwandan citizens), Kwigira (self-reliance) and Ubudashyikirwa (being exemplary and exceptional).
I started learning Kinyarwanda at the age of 40. So, mind less about my translations, but I hope I have done justice to the language.
Such programmes speak volumes of Rwanda’s outstanding preparedness to encounter any disasters and their impact of whatever magnitude.
I am neither a Rwandan national nor an apologist for the Rwandan government, but a journalist with the thirst and hunger to provide accurate information, particularly when I identify misinformation doing the rounds.
There is this lot of people that have been comparing Coronavirus cases, and after reading between the lines, you find they intend to undermine the efforts of the GoR in containing the pandemic.
True, 70 is a big number compared to the population. But, looking at the essence and current interventions put in place, the number would not only give credit to Rwanda’s health systems but also expose their ill-motives behind such overblown comments.
The story behind the scene
After Rwanda had successfully introduced the Community Health Workers (CHWs) programme at the village level which brought on board volunteers working directly with the Health Centres decentralized at Sector level, the country enhanced capacity in surveillance, monitoring and timely reporting of health issues affecting communities countrywide.
Besides being facilitated, the CHWs have been thoroughly trained to handle minor health cases, and urgently report those beyond their capacity to the Health Centres. Underline “urgently”.
Therefore, the numbers are big because of the effectiveness in identification of affected people compared to countries in the region with sick and devastated health systems which may brag of small numbers when actually their national are languishing in the villages without access to the healthcare.
CHWs complement other programmes like compulsory and subsidized Health Insurance Scheme codenamed Mutuelle de Sante that has made healthcare in the country affordable and accessible.
Moreover, the government foots the bill of the most vulnerable citizens in society as identified by local leaders through the Ubudehe programme that classifies residents according to poverty levels. So, whoever belongs to the First and Second category receives assistance under the gesture of social justice.
Hence, giving relief to the most vulnerable people in Rwanda is NOT a new phenomenon and far from news to Rwandans and the existing structures have always catered for a humanitarian cause.
Who are the vulnerable people most affected by COVID-19 lockdown?
Rwandans, mostly the non-salaried workers like potters now strictly observing the Ministry of Health measures to curb the spread of the pandemic and containing it received an assortment of household essentials including food.
This followed President Paul Kagame’s order made by virtue of the powers granted to him by the Constitution. During his National address on COVID-19 to the nation on March27, he said his Government would do everything possible to support Rwandans when the pandemic is flaring up.
“The Government will continue to do everything possible, to support Rwandans through this challenging time,” observed President Kagame.
“We know that this is not an easy period for most Rwandans, whose livelihoods have been interrupted across the country,” said Kagame who called on his people to be more resilient.
All government institutions particularly the Ministry of Health and that of Local Government are doing whatever it takes as part of national solidarity to support the citizens through various interventions complementing the existing structures.
“All other forms of support, including that of fellow citizens or groups will be channelled through local government units to avoid chaos. All support must be recorded by local leaders,” Prof. Shyaka, the Minister for Local Government was quoted by local media on March28.
“We will distribute the items door-to-door, while observing the measures put in place to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. This will be done in an organised manner where local leaders at the lowest grassroots unit help to identify the most vulnerable households,” he added.
At least 20,000 household in the districts of Gasabo, Nyarugenge and Kicukiro that make the City of Kigali have already benefitted from the first phase of relief distribution that has attracted the attention of mostly the international media.
Notably, the successful exercise avoided crowds and like the way the Biblical angel of death moved around the households of the Israelites in Egypt as they bargained their exit out os slavery and bondage, the selfless village and cell local leaders carrying foodstuffs and other basic items moved door-to-door distributing the essential items to obviate chances of further spread of the dreadful virus, and simultaneously reinforcing the preventive measures.
Some 7,734 vulnerable households in Gasabo are grateful to the government for the support while 11, 895 and 5, 271 households from Nyarugenge and Kicukiro respectively had their welfare refixed by similar support. These are the beneficiaries of the relief so far. I, also, deserve a relief of Internet bundles from Telecommunications Services Providers during this lockdown.
The lockdown started March21 with the country’s highly professional and disciplined Police enforcing it, and going by the current signs on the ground, observers say Rwanda is so far fighting a good fight, following the systematic implementation of preventive measures and several efforts directed towards the containment of the pandemic is not far.
Notwithstanding, more support is still needed from other humanitarian groups and individuals. And, the GoR has already received generous contribution from mostly local donors.
Thus, stories run in contraction of the facts in this space aim at misinforming the world on the COVID-19 response in Rwanda, fake news just. Period.