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Rwanda, 26 October 2010: Rays of hope emerge after a deadly earthquake

© UNICEF Rwanda/2010
Classrooms made of polythene material are what was immediately adopted after the deadly earthquake.

By Sam Nkurunziza

WESTERN RWANDA, 26 October 2010 - It’s exactly two and a half years now since a series of earthquakes struck Western Rwanda in the two districts of Rusizi and Nyamasheke. Despite great damage that was incurred, remarkable achievements have been made in restoring the communities' hope for a better future.

Much has been achieved through community participation in a community empowerment project implemented by UNICEF and generously funded by the Government of Japan. Reconstruction of the affected areas, full functioning of social infrastructures and other  basic services have become everyone’s priority.

The remoteness of the area did not hinder the re-establishment of basic education and health facilities, including standard classroom blocks, modern eco-san toilets and residential houses. And as if to confirm any further expectations, surprisingly life is now back to normal and the local population clearly looks set along the right track to full social and economic development.

Tulio Mateo, the coordinator of this project at UNICEF explains that there has been massive community participation in a bid to empower the residents as they recover from the deadly earthquake. He says that the local community has been greatly involved in the construction of 21 schools in the two districts as well as a health centre after the old one was destroyed.

“There has also been training of community health workers in order to ensure effective management of major killer diseases at the community level,” he says. He adds that teachers’ capacities in participatory and child-centred approaches have also been strengthened by a group of trainers from various primary schools.

Tulio points out that another sustainable way of helping the vulnerable most especially child-headed households is to increase access to improved sanitation.

“That is why we have sensitized the local community about the construction of modern eco-san toilets and other basic principles of primary health care,” he says.

Regular sensitization of health workers about gender based violence, human rights and legal services also go on at Gihundwe Hospital.

The US$ 6.4 million project, implemented by UNICEF in association with local NGOs and communities empowers local communities in the Rusizi and Nymasheke areas to rebuild and improve their lives with new approaches to poverty reduction, health, water, sanitation, education and protection issues.

© UNICEF Rwanda/2010
In the wake of the earthquake, children only helped their parents in domestic work but now there is hope for a better future.

A visit to Nkombo Island where an entire health centre was brought down two years ago attests to the fact that rays of hope have now emerged in this isolated and poorest part of the country.

Didace Mukeshimana, the head nurse at Nkombo health centre is even more optimistic since a residential apartment for health workers is under construction.

He explains that soon after the earthquake, many thought that reconstruction was a far-fetched dream for people in such a remote area.

“Surprisingly there is fast track development in the aftermath of the earthquake in which hundreds of residents died while many others lost property worth millions,” says Mukeshimana.

Similarly, Alphonse Mudahinyurwa, a resident at this Island says that the rehabilitation program has helped poor people like him face challenges of life through education and vocational training.

“This has enabled us to develop income-generating activities in order to establish a sustainable way of living,” he says.

Apart from providing and supporting child-friendly environments, Mudahinyurwa stresses that the access to health insurance has also helped the local communities to recover from the effects of the deadly earthquake.

And just like Mudahinyurwa, many other residents admit that a lot has been done in trying to restore a better life for the affected families and the future even looks brighter.



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