28. Mar 2019

In Rwanda, partners come together to lift diabetes care

Gwendolyn Carleton
A WDF-supported project is improving diabetes awareness, prevention and care across Rwanda – and helping achieve the goals of the country’s ambitious NCD plan.
Etienne Uwingabire from the Rwanda Diabetes Association draws a crowd to a diabetes screening event in Kigali. Click above to see a short film.

In 2016, Rwanda’s Ministry of Health launched a comprehensive plan to protect the country’s residents from premature morbidity and mortality related to NCDs. It included a strong rationale for action, the Minister of Health’s endorsement – and a call for more financing to address the significant funding gap.

Against this backdrop, representatives of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), which manages NCD care in the country, approached WDF with a proposal. They wanted to create a national level diabetes programme with a focus on capacity building of primary and secondary level health facilities, and needed outside financing and expertise to help it succeed. 

The result was a new, high level partnership between WDF and the RBC launched in 2017: National Diabetes Prevention and Control Program - WDF15-1232

Start small and test

The National Diabetes Prevention and Control Program’s first goal is to improve general knowledge among Rwandans about diabetes risk factors, early detection and complications. 

“We are making sure to raise awareness of NCDs in the population by educating people about the risk factors and the importance of early screening, so they can get checked as early as possible,” explains Dr Gilles Ndayisaba, Head of NCDs in the RBC.

Its second goal is to improve access and quality of care. To do this, the project is strengthening diabetes services in the new network of NCD clinics at the primary and secondary level in several ways. For example, it is training healthcare providers, distributing basic equipment and providing the clinics with education and awareness material. 

The third goal is to improve coordination, monitoring and evaluation of diabetes care nationwide, and include diabetes indicators and data in existing health management information systems.

“All hospital personnel are trained, and we’re now ensuring quality of services. Before deploying everywhere, we start small and test – we’re reaching more than 500 health centres, and it’s new for them, so it’s a process,” Dr Gilles says.
 
Impressive example

WDF staff visited Rwanda late in 2018 and met with partners at the RBC and Rwanda Diabetes Association, which is supporting the project. See a short film recorded during the visit.

“There’s clearly a strong commitment from the Ministry of Health, the RBC and strong engagement with civil society working on diabetes  in Rwanda to enhance diabetes and NCD prevention and care,” says Kirza Buch Kristensen, WDF Senior Advisor. “This is an impressive example of commitment and collaboration among the main stakeholders in the area.”

The Rwandan government’s efforts to improve diabetes prevention and control will continue after WDF funding ends, Dr Gilles says. But WDF’s funding, expertise and network have all helped the effort get off to a strong start.

“The grant has been very helpful for moving diabetes awareness and care towards the lowest level of the healthcare system, where it belongs, and ultimately moving us toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals for NCDs,” he says.