Rwanda NGOs Forum Calls for Government Action on Neglected Diseases and Sanitation

In a historic event held on December 19, 2023, the Rwanda NGOs Forum on AIDS and Health Promotion, in collaboration with key partners such as the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), The End Fund, and the Rwanda Media Commission-RMC, honored journalists for their exemplary coverage of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and sanitation throughout the year. This inaugural annual ceremony aimed to underscore the pivotal role of the media in advocating for and educating the public on these often-overlooked health issues.

Among the distinguished awardees was Ntawurikura Rosine of Community Radio Isangano, located in Karongi District. Ntawurikura secured the top spot, receiving a laptop and a check for nine hundred thousand Rwandan francs (900,000 Frw). Turatsinze Jean Paul of RBA claimed the second position, earning a smartphone and a check of six hundred thousand (600,000 Frw), while Hakizimana Elias of The Inspirer secured the third spot, being awarded a modem, six months of internet, and a check for four hundred thousand (400,000 Frw).

Expressing his joy after winning the first place, Ntawurikura conveyed his gratitude to the Rwanda NGOs Forum and its partners for organizing the event. He emphasized the importance of recognizing the efforts made in creating stories about neglected diseases and hygiene. Ntawurikura sees this acknowledgment as motivation to continue working passionately on raising awareness and making a positive impact.

Executive Secretary Advocates for Government Involvement

Nooliet Kabanyana, the Executive Secretary of Rwanda NGOs Forum, highlighted the significance of the event, emphasizing the need to protect citizens from diseases that disproportionately affect vulnerable individuals unable to advocate for themselves. Kabanyana stressed the importance of cooperation from all sectors to ensure Rwandans understand how to prevent and treat neglected diseases.

In an impassioned plea to the government, Kabanyana urged for a comprehensive research initiative to assess the prevalence of neglected diseases among Rwandans. She called for an evaluation of the accessibility of medical services, emphasizing the importance of identifying gaps in healthcare delivery. Kabanyana also underscored the necessity of building the capacity of non-governmental organizations and the media to deepen their understanding and knowledge, enabling them to effectively communicate vital information to the public.

We are urging the government to conduct in-depth research to determine how many Rwandans have these diseases, how many receive medical services, and how many do not. This will help identify what is needed to assist Rwandans in accessing services related to neglected diseases,”

Kabanyana asserted.

She concluded by expressing gratitude for the media’s crucial role in public education, encouraging citizens to adopt healthy practices and join the collective effort to combat neglected diseases and other health issues.

Ntawurikura Rosine expresses heartfelt gratitude to esteemed partners for acknowledging the media sector, with special appreciation for those involved in addressing Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) issue. She urges fellow journalists to work diligently with the goal of informing and positively transforming our community.

Current Health Landscape in Rwanda

According to RBC, a total of 21 neglected diseases are listed by the World Health Organization (WHO), affecting 1 in 5 people globally, with 40% of those cases occurring in the African continent. Neglected Diseases, as classified by WHO, are a group of infectious diseases that primarily affect populations in poverty, often leading to chronic and debilitating conditions. In Rwanda, 9 diseases, including intestinal worms at a rate of 41%, predominantly affect adults at a rate of 48%. This event marks a pivotal moment in rallying support and inspiring action to address these pressing health concerns in the nation.