It has been over two years since the World Health Organization (WHO) sounded the alarm on COVID-19. In March 2020, the virus Rwanda had apprehensively watched from afar had emerged on its doorstep.
Few could have imagined how life would change. The handshakes once used with impunity became a deadly health risk. Cases rose rapidly and Rwanda’s leadership and frontline health workers toiled around the clock to contain the emergency. Despite the commendable work done by the government, health service delivery was gravely affected like in the rest of the World.
At this crucial juncture, the Government of Japan in collaboration with WHO provided critical assistance to Rwanda’s COVID-19 National Joint Task Force. Through a project titled, “Strengthening the COVID-19 pandemic response and mitigating the impact of public health emergencies in Rwanda”, Japan provided invaluable support during an unprecedented time.
Among other things, Rwanda was able to procure two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) extraction machines placed at the National Reference Laboratory and Kigali International Airport, significantly reducing the testing process, and boosting response efforts.
This equipment fast-tracked the testing rates from 0.25 per 10,000 population in March 2020 to 609 per 10,000 by December 2020. Today, the PCR testing capacity has gone from 1 to 11 sites in the country.
At the time, Imai Masahiro, Ambassador of Japan to Rwanda commended the nation for using partnerships as a tool to tackle the public health emergency. “We appreciate the consistent efforts and firm commitment of the Government of Rwanda in responding effectively to this worldwide crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and realizing the importance of inclusive and integrated crisis management,” he expressed.
Japan is a long-standing partner to the Government of Rwanda. Before the COVID-19 response, it supported the country through funding worth over US$1.7 million towards projects implemented through WHO.
Dr Brian Chirombo, WHO Representative to Rwanda says the commitment from the Government of Japan has been instrumental to the work of WHO in the East African nation. He says: “Science has shown that pandemics can emanate from anywhere. They are fatal health threats that also disrupt our social-economic well-being. I thank the Government of Japan for its long-standing cooperation with WHO to achieve its mission to promote health and to keep Rwanda safe.”
Japan has contributed tremendously to Rwanda’s fight against health threats. In 2018, it provided funding support of over US$1 million to aid in strengthening preparedness for the Ebola outbreak.
The funding not only supported the procurement of equipment but equally to strengthening the capacity to respond to diseases particularly in the rural areas and at the Rwandan borders.
It should be noted that the political will and resilience demonstrated by the Government of Rwanda during outbreaks as coordinated by the office of the prime minister was commendable.
WHO in Rwanda is delighted to have worked closely with partners such as the Government of Japan in offering technical support towards the fight against COVID-19 and other health emergencies to ensure that the people of Rwanda are safe and healthy.
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