For most people, awareness of Rwanda begins and ends with its infamous genocide. Within a period of only 100 days in 1994, nearly one million Rwandese people were brutally killed. Although the country’s infrastructure was destroyed, the Rwandan spirit refused defeat.
Rwanda today is a far cry from the nightmare that caught the world's attention, albeit too little and too late, in 1994.
Today, Rwanda has united in reform. Laws now ban the ID cards that once distinguished the Hutus from the Tutsis, IDs that fostered division and ultimately helped facilitate the genocide. The country has undertaken the immense task of reconciliation and rebuilding, and is fast emerging as a model nation in Africa.
Known as “the Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda is a predominantly rural land, about the size of Maryland, with a population exceeding 9 million. Although it’s still one of the poorest nations on the planet, it is a land on the rise.
For the Access Project, Rwanda was the ideal place to channel its energies and prove that effective management skills can restore a public health system: the genocide’s legacy created a moral imperative for foreign involvement/support; the country's small size supports the potential for big impact; and the government, led by President Paul Kagame, has been noted for its stability, business-minded progress and anti-corruption policies.
In fact, World Bank’s Governance Indicators in July 2007 showed considerable improvements in Rwanda’s governance and, in Sept. 2007, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Ibrahim index of holistic governance progress ranked Rwanda the most improved African country.
This progress can be seen and felt throughout the country.
Significant infrastructure improvements have been accomplished. The country’s roads are lauded as some of the best in Africa – and plans are in work for a transportation network, including rail and air connections, that will help establish Rwanda as the trade and commercial hub of East and Central Africa.
From a ban on plastic bags to a mandatory monthly cleanup day, Rwanda has maintained a noticeable commitment to keeping its streets clean.
Enhanced security measures are also making a significant difference, earning Rwanda a reputation as one of the safest countries in Africa, and possibly the world.
The nation’s stability has inspired new investments in business and industries, spurring (private and public sector) economic development and growth of the tourism industry focused on the majestic mountain gorillas.
Overall, a spirit of cooperation prevails as the nation strives towards a better future.
Rwanda is on its way to becoming an African success story. But even such great gains will not take root if a country is sick and dying. Despite the country’s positive momentum, the majority of the population still lacks access to the health services they need to live and thrive.
Throughout Rwanda there are only 899 doctors for more than 9 million people, and only 185 of these doctors are in rural areas. The average Rwandan life expectancy is 44 years, and the mortality rate for children under 5 is a startling 203 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Without health there can be no chance to break out of poverty. Rwanda’s future depends on timely and effective interventions that strengthen the existing health system and improve people’s health… interventions that Access Project is committed to provide.