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Local government officials in Kigali, on Saturday, December 2, launched a two-day campaign to sensitize people about the dangers of gender-based violence (GVB).

The effort is part of the 16 Days of Activism against GBV, an annual international campaign that kicks off on November 25 and runs until December 10.

In Kigali, various places including Karama model village in Nyarugenge District, Club Rafiki and Maison de Jeunes, hosted events aimed at sensitizing people about GBV, in addition to offering services like screening for Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and HIV.

At Karama model village, Mireille Batamuliza, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Gender and Family promotion, tipped the audience on the four types of GBV and urged them to play a role in fighting them.

She noted that GBV can be categorized into physical violence, psychological violence, sexual violence, and socio-economic abuse.

Institutions where people can report GBV cases include Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) and Isange One Stop Centre which have a toll-free number 116.

While the government has been proactive in the fight against gender-based violence, including the criminalisation of GBV in 2008 and the introduction of an anti-GBV policy in 2011, the problem is still widespread.

From January to November, the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) received 8,678 GBV cases. Out of these, 3,803 cases made their way to court, and 4,267 cases were successfully resolved. Among the total cases, 4,364 cases involved child defilement.

Marc Baxmann, the Deputy Head of Cooperation at the German Embassy, one the key partners with Rwanda in the fight against GBV, told The New Times that the problem is widespread across the globe and requires concerted efforts to deal with it.

Through the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), the German embassy in Rwanda is supporting a project called “Preventing Gender-based Violence” which features a wide range of activities including working with peer educators and social workers to raise awareness on GBV, as well as supporting Isange One Stop Centers where people go to get advice and care when they are confronted by GBV.

“The problem of gender-based violence is widespread across the globe. One in three women reports that they were abused in their lifetime, globally. So I think it's a global issue. That's why we're also engaged in the 16 days of activism,” Baxmann said.

Globally, UN Women reports that an estimated 736 million women, nearly one in three, have endured physical and, or, sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their lives (30 per cent of women aged 15 and older). This figure excludes incidents of sexual harassment. - Hudson Kuteesa, The New Times


Bujumbura – "I'm diabetic and life here is very hard, very complicated," complains Jean Ndimurirwo, 68, who has lived in the Maramvya camp for displaced people, near Bujumbura in Burundi, since being driven from her home by floodwaters three years ago. 

A diabetic for 23 years, Ndimurirwo suffered several complications that required specialist intervention last year. "I used to leave the camp to go to a suburb of Bujumbura to see a diabetologist. But it's often hard because I don't always have the means to travel, and pay for the consultation and the necessary medical tests."

In camps like the Maramvya, which is home to more than 5 000 people, access to optimal health care remains a challenge, especially for those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes. In response, Burundi’s Health Ministry launched the Maison des Jeunes Mobile Clinic initiative in February this year, targeting camps for displaced people (IDPs) and rural communities.

Between February and September, almost 6000 people benefited from free medical consultations and treatment thanks to the mobile clinic, which is supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), with funding from the Government of Japan.

In addition, nearly 2000 patients benefited from laboratory tests and 680 pregnant women from obstetric ultrasounds, while more than 15 000 people received education in areas including hygiene, cholera, gender-based violence, malaria, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Global Peace Chain Burundi is one of the non-government organization’s supported by WHO as part of this campaign to deliver better health care to vulnerable populations. "Free consultations in IDP camps are of vital importance because they meet the medical needs of vulnerable populations who would otherwise have little or no access to adequate health care," says Dr Brondon Niguel Vouofo, the organization’s country director.

From medical consultations to advice on sexual and reproductive health, ultrasounds, laboratory tests and measures to prevent and screen for communicable and non-communicable diseases, an entire  package of health services is offered. 

"WHO Burundi's support enables us to reach a large number of people in IDP camps, which greatly improves the quality of care offered to vulnerable populations," explains Dr Vouofo. "People screened for medical problems, including diabetes, receive appropriate medical care and advice on appropriate diet and lifestyle to enable them to better control the disease. »

In Burundi, hypertension and diabetes are two common and often associated public health problems. According to data from the District Health Information System 2 (DHIS2), Burundi’s more than 2-million strong population includes almost 38 000 people living with diabetes, and more than 98 000 others with high blood pressure. 

"The diabetes screening campaigns organised in the camps make a huge contribution to the fight against diabetes, because the surrounding populations also benefit. In this way, people know their status in time to take the necessary steps," says Dr Jean de Dieu Havyarimana, director of the National Integrated Programme to Combat Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases.

He points out that, in the absence of a national diabetes and hypertension register, these campaigns are extremely useful. "They allow us to populate our diabetes database, which helps our planning. » 

As part of the fight against noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, the WHO team at the Burundi Country Office is providing multifaceted support, including the development of strategies and policies that align with the country’s drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). 

"WHO, in its work to achieve Universal Health Coverage, must not leave anyone behind. In IDP camps, people often live in very precarious conditions, with few or no health facilities. This means that if particular attention is not paid to these populations, those with noncommunicable diseases could experience serious difficulties, especially in terms of treatment, but also in relation to the early detection of diseases such as diabetes," says Dr Jérôme Ndaruhutse, WHO Burundi’s NCD programme officer.

The country faces many hurdles in improving NCD management, including suboptimal planning and management of both human and financial resources, as well as access to care, especially for vulnerable groups. Against this backdrop, the screening campaigns and the consequent treatment for people in the camps offers hope to those living with diabetes.

"Since the doctors have been coming to visit us in the camp and giving us free consultations, I feel relieved," says Ndimurirwo. "My health has improved and I'm satisfied. - World Health Organisation


Government aided the removal of about 1.4 million (82.4 per cent) square metres of asbestos roofing from public and private buildings in the country as of October 31, according to the Rwanda Housing Authority.

The latest progress is in comparison to 1.69 million square metres of roofs countrywide that were made of asbestos. Some 300, 124 square metres of asbestos roofing still need to be removed. If poorly disposed of, asbestos fibre can be a dangerous indoor air pollutant and hazardous to human and animal health.

Health experts say the more one is exposed to asbestos, the greater the chance of developing lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops from the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs. Asbestosis is a chronic lung condition that is caused by prolonged exposure to high concentrations of asbestos fibers in the air.

According to RHA, in general, an area of 81.8 per cent of government buildings no longer has asbestos roofing while

“Whoever has materials made of asbestos should first consider health and save lives. As the government strives to eliminate asbestos, people who still have them should follow suit to ensure their elimination,” the RHA stated.

Asbestos, once a popular material used in roofing, was praised for its durability and fire-resistant properties, but scientists later discovered that there were numerous health risks associated with having asbestos in house roofs.

Efforts to eradicate asbestos roofing in Rwanda started in October 2009.

How provinces are faring in removing asbestos

Eastern Province leads in terms of eliminating asbestos, with a removal rate of 92.7 per cent.

The City of Kigali stands at 92.5 per cent, Northern Province at 84.9 per cent, Western Province at 75.1 per cent and Southern Province at 73.6 per cent.

The coordinator of the asbestos removal project, Mathias Ntakirutimana, told The New Times that at least 900 companies were trained to help remove asbestos roofing across the country.

“We are sensitizing people to change their mindset. They should understand that it is no longer difficult to remove asbestos because many technicians have been trained. They can replace asbestos with affordable iron sheets. It is not something we are requiring them to do in one day.

They should have a plan and a target,” he said.

Ntakirutimana said the government trained builders’ cooperative members, police officers, land managers, members of the reserve forces, and correctional service officers, among others.

“These also help to report cases of buildings that still have asbestos. The removal of asbestos is very urgent,” he said.

In 2013, the government estimated that there was more than one million square metres of asbestos roofing that had to be cleared and disposed of by 2016, an exercise that was estimated to cost Rwf23 billion.

However, things later changed since the price to remove asbestos was reduced as a result of a growing number of trained asbestos removal technicians in addition to the increased number of asbestos burial sites.

Jean Rodrigue Munyaneza, a civil engineer, in 2020, told The New Times that the cost a private owner would incur amounted to a little over Rwf3 million. For an average 300 square metre family house, he said, the total cost would involve up to Rwf500,000 to remove the asbestos, Rwf1.5 million to buy new iron sheets, and Rwf600,000 for labour and painting, among others.

This is in addition to the usually unforeseen refurbishment or construction costs that go with it.

One also has to foot the bill of transporting the removed asbestos to a designated dumping site for safe disposal.

Talking about budget constraints, on Thursday, November 9, Alphonse Rukaburandekwe, the Director General of Rwanda Housing Authority, told The New Times that “currently, budget is not the main challenge to eliminate asbestos since the government put in more effort and achieved the asbestos elimination rate of more than 80 per cent.”

He said owners of buildings with asbestos were informed and asked to fast-track the removal of asbestos. - Michel Nkurunziza, The New Times

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