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Cherie Blair visits children and sees progress at renovated hospital outside Kigali, Rwanda

© UNICEF Rwanda/2007/Kigali
Cherie Blair, a lawyer and wife of Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, talks to a volunteer at the Rwinkwavu District Health Centre outside Kigali, Rwanda.

By Joseph Foumbi

RWINKWAVU DISTRICT, Rwanda, 6 March 2007 – During a recent three-day visit to Rwanda to attend the 2007 Women Parliamentarians International Conference, Cherie Blair took one morning to visit a UNICEF-supported hospital outside the capital, Kigali.

A distinguished lawyer and the wife of Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, Ms. Blair went from bed to bed in the newly renovated children's ward for young patients at the Rwinkwavu District Health Centre. She held hands with children in the ward who were recovering from malaria or receiving treatment for cancer, pneumonia and other illnesses.

Ms. Blair also visited the renovated children's malnutrition ward and the women's surgical ward at the hospital.

"I am impressed by the improved facilities and the care that children receive at Rwinkwavu. The collaboration has brought about wonderful change for children,” said Ms. Blair. “The great partnership experience shows synergy between the UN, the international civil society and the Government of Rwanda."

Partners in Health

The Rwinkwavu District Hospital is being run by the non-governmental organization Partners in Health (PIH) with support from UNICEF and the Clinton Foundation.

PIH, which began its work with poor rural communities in Haiti, has a number of projects under way around the world. They provide skilled and caring health care practitioners who not only improve care levels in their own facility but also train national counterparts working alongside them.

© UNICEF Rwanda/2007/Kigali
A patient in the paediatric ward of the renovated Rwinkwavu hospital uses a drawing kit as Cherie Blair looks on.

In 2005, the Rwinkwavu District Hospital was selected by the Government of Rwanda for rehabilitation as part of its vision for offering Rwanda's people effective HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care, as well as improving access to primary health care.

The hospital is 100 km from Kigali and, like many of the health care facilities in the countryside, it suffered from poor infrastructure and scarce or non-existent medical supplies. Meanwhile, HIV prevalence rates in the surrounding area were high.

Just over a year and a half into the project, the improvements in the nearly 100-bed hospital are impressive – with well-tended flowers and walkways, bright wards, new equipment and water tanks, as well as lifesaving drugs, including anti-retroviral treatment for children and adults living with HIV and AIDS.

Spreading progress

While impressive progress has been made in Rwanda to improve the health, development and lives of children since the devastation of the 1994 genocide, much remains to be done – particularly in rural areas.

Up the slope from the Rwinkwavu District Hospital, a health-care training centre is being built to extend the hospital’s approach throughout Rwanda and beyond.

The training centre will attract health workers from other parts of the region and continent to learn from what Rwanda has achieved, combining top-of-the-line equipment and medical skills with a rights-based approach to health care for all.



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