Health First: The Access Story
In Rwanda and other impoverished countries throughout the world, economic development is the goal of significant national and international efforts. The Access Project focuses on a critical component in this bigger picture: health. Why health first? Poor health is both a cause and an effect of extreme poverty; sickness and disease are key factors keeping families, communities, and nations mired in destitution. The foundations of a healthy population must be laid before economies can progress. Even achieving a minimal health standard produces results. Good health increases productivity and prosperity at the household level.
The Access team works on the challenges that most donors would rather avoid, addressing the debilitating conditions that prevent a health center from functioning effectively. Access tackles deficiencies in finance management, human resources, and critical systems such as drug procurement. Many health centers can only employ two or three under-trained staff, have no running water or electricity, yet are expected to deliver care to communities of 25,000 people or more.
Effective health care in Rwanda comes down to quality, capacity and accessibility. The Access Project helps health centers get on their feet by providing management technical assistance, targeted financing, and in-depth training, to ensure transparency and smooth operations. By honing management skills, the Access Project helps these centers improve their processes and services, making them successful facilities where the Global Fund and other donors are eager to invest.
Rebuilding health centers is a good investment. For less than one million dollars, even the worst health center can be rehabilitated to a standard that has meaningful impact on its community’s health for years to come. In Mayange, Rwanda, such investments have led to a dramatic increase in patient visits. The health center had just over 6,000 outpatient visitors in all of 2005; in 2007 a total of 41,690 patient visits were recorded at the Mayange health center and three health posts. Previously, when the health center had nothing to offer, sick people would not bother to come. Today, community leaders talk about the difference. Then, children and adults died from preventable disease every week; now, as one woman put it: “there are no more funerals.”