How COVID-19 is affecting the Health[e]Community project in Rwanda

Right after the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019, the Rwandan government did set up a multidisciplinary team to assess and strengthen preparedness and response to the epidemic.

Utilizing the skills and expertise developed to address the 2018 Ebola crises, Rwanda has managed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Over 500 health staff including laboratory technicians were instantly trained. Rwanda was the first Sub-Saharan African country to enforce total lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Since March 21, Rwanda was under a total lockdown banning unnecessary movements except for essential services such as healthcare and food shopping. Schools, universities, and places of worship across the country have been shut down. As of the 6th of May, Rwanda had recorded 261 COVID-19 cases and no fatalities.

On May 4, Rwanda’s government announced a partial ease of the strict measures that were imposed six weeks ago. A night curfew has been enforced and movement in and out of the capital, Kigali, is prohibited. Day time movements are allowed provided everyone adheres to mandatory mask wearing and social distancing. All schools will remain closed until September and borders will remain closed, except for cargo and returning Rwandan citizens and legal residents. Markets have reopened at half capacity, while hotels and restaurants will close by 19:00 local time. Sports facilities, gyms, bars, places of worship will remain closed, but individual sporting activities are allowed in open spaces. People are allowed to go back to their jobs but only 50% will be allowed to operate from their workplace while the other half will continue to work from home for the next two weeks. However, there is a sense of grievance that fares in public transport have increased after buses were ordered to carry half of their capacity to ensure social distancing.

Health[e]Community in Rwanda
Health[e]Foundation still has an ongoing training project- Health[e]Community in Rwanda in partnership with Rinda Ubuzima and the Ministry of Health- Rwanda that is seriously is affected by the Corona crisis. The project involves training community health workers on life skills, sexual and reproductive health and Ebola prevention via a blended learning approach (workshops and e-learning). Although the self-study period of 3 months is offered digitally, the participants are also required to complete a set of activities within their community. Now gatherings have been banned as one of the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is impossible for the participants to partake in these community activities. Instead, we are currently devising activities that can be done by the participants while adhering to the mandatory precautions. A follow-up workshop for the first training group of 145 participants was planned during May, but had to be postponed until further notice. Despite this, our local partners have been in the frontline to continue to motivate the participants. All participants take part in a Whatsapp group that was created during the kick-off workshop which is now very useful to uplift all participants amidst the crisis. Additionally, Health[e]Foundation has developed an online course on COVID-19, available in English and Kinyarwanda. This way our participants can stay motivated by being informed on the latest updates related to virus.

In the meantime, easing the Rwandan lockdown for two weeks will give a better picture of how things will develop. The hope is that if people will continue to follow all requested precautions, the battle against COVID-19 might be on the winning hand, and the country can return to operate as before. That will give Health[e]Foundation the option to continue to train new groups of community workers, that are lined up to particpate!