Health[e]Community training in Rwanda: from Ebola-preparedness to COVID-19 containment

The Umurinzi Ebola Vaccine Program – a collaboration between the Rwanda Ministry of Health, the Rwanda Biomedical Center, Rinda Ubuzima, the Emory University’s Project San Fransisco and Health[e]Foundation funded by Johnsons & Johnsons Global Public Health division and Welcome Trust – was launched in December 2019 with the objective to educate and vaccinate community members against the deadly Ebola disease and prevent it from spreading further in Africa. Health[e]Foundation’s role focused on training of community health workers (CHWs) with the Health[e]Community, a course combining e-modules and outreach activities on (prevention of) Ebola and healthy living concepts. 

In the beginning of February 2020, Health[e]Foundation travelled to Western Rwanda to begin the first round of kick-off workshops. A total of 135 CHWs from the Western province 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.

Who could have known that this series of workshops would mark the start of rethinking how to offer blended learning as the outbreak of COVID-19 resulted in travel restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing? Despite challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic also opened windows for new opportunities. What started as a holistic Ebola preparedness program, including training on Ebola prevention, life skills, sexual & reproductive health and other healthy living concepts, expanded into a COVID-19 containment program as well.

We quickly adapted to the new situation by facilitating the remaining part of the training as online-only via our e-learning platform and by adding the new course Corona[e]Education to the Health[e]Community curriculum. This course contains information about the COVID-19 outbreak, transmission routes, signs and symptoms, treatment, prevention, and the current emergency response. The course is continuously updated as new information emerges and is available in English and Kinyarwanda.

The adaptative approach led to established results. We are extremely proud to announce that the first group of 135 CHWs has successfully completed the course with a total completion rate of 89% (110/135). We are wishing the CHWs all the best in applying their renewed knowledge and skills in providing basic health education, and we are looking forward to continue training of CHWs in other districts in Rwanda together with the partners of the Umurinzi Ebola Vaccine Program.