Health[e]Community for the Umurinzi program: Ebola preparedness in Rwanda

In July 2019, a case of Ebola was reported in the DRC City of Goma, home to two million people and a significant trading hub close to the Rwandan border. Many Rwandans cross this border for various reasons such as business, school or family responsibilities. Fears for further spread into Rwanda alerted the Ministry of Health in Rwanda to take action in preventing this from happening.

The launch of the Umurinzi Ebola Vaccine Program took place in December 2019 with the objective to educate and vaccinate the community against this deadly disease and prevent and from spreading further in Africa. The Umurinzi program is being implemented by the Rwanda Ministry of Health, the Rwanda Biomedical Center, Rinda Ubuzima and the Emory University’s Project San Francisco in Kigali. The program is funded by Johnsons & Johnson’s Global Public Health division who is supporting community engagement and health system capacity for the program through its work in the EBODAC (Ebola Vaccine Deployment, Acceptance and Compliance) consortium. The program will run for a period of 1 year. Within the Umurinzi project Health[e]Foundation is responsible for training >500 community health workers (CHWs).

In the beginning of February, Health[e]Foundation travelled to Western Rwanda to begin the first round of training for CHWs on Ebola prevention, life skills, sexual & reproductive health and other healthy living concepts. The training program follows our blended learning approach including site training, self-study via e-learning and field work and activities to share knowledge with the community. A total of 135 CHWs from the Western province (Rusizi, Rutsiro, Karongi, Kabaya, Nyabihu, Nyamasheke and Ngoronero districts) were trained and are initiated to start the three months e-course named Health[e]Community. The CHWs attended a 2-day kick-off workshop to introduce the course and provide them with their personal tablets. These tablets contain the e-course for (offline) self-studying to facilitate their work and provide the information and materials at hand to pass on to their community members. In three months, we will return to Rwanda for a follow-up workshops with these learners and start the following groups. We are very pleased to be part of this preparedness initiative to prevent Rwanda from the Ebola crisis.