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Arriving in Rwanda

I arrived in Rwanda’s capital city, Kigali, on Saturday. It’s now Monday. In the last day and a half I’ve been exploring the city. Most importantly, I have learnt that February is not the dry season!

At 9am I arrived at Save the Children HQ. It’s a very modest office on busy road, above a shop that sells bathroom furniture. After being introduced to the programme staff, I was given a security briefing by Mbasa Rugigana. Security in our programme countries is defined on a scale of 1 to 5. The first is ‘calm’, moving quickly to ‘tense’, ‘insecure’, ‘dangerous’ and lastly, ‘untenable’. Security levels in any country can change very quickly and country staff are prepared for all possibilities. It was reassuring to hear that Rwanda’s current security level is 1: programmes operate as normal and staff have freedom of movement. But the briefing brought home to me the situations that Save the Children staff in many other countries work in.

Next I met Binyam Woldetsadik, the health programme manager for Rwanda. We talked about the purpose of my visit: to produce a video about Save the Children’s work in Rwanda. Binyam’s small health team – himself and Speciouse, have four objectives:

Firstly, to increase access to healthcare – particularly for mothers and children – by building and refurbishing health centres where they’re needed most.

Secondly, to improve capacity – that means training nurses in treating (and preventing) childhood illnesses.

Thirdly, to include child participation in healthcare decisions, so that children are involved in decisions affecting them.

Lastly, advocacy: working with the government of Rwanda to improve healthcare for the poorest people.

I told Binyam that back in London my primary role at Save the Children was a fundraiser, and soon enough we started talking about fundraising for the Rwandan health programme. It’s never been clearer to me of the importance of unrestricted funds. Unrestricted funds means giving this team here in Rwanda the ability to employ the skills and knowledge they have, to save children’s lives, without being restricted to a particular type of health intervention.

However, when funds are restricted, it means certain areas of work – that are no less important – become difficult to get funding for. A new health centre is vital for enabling children to access healthcare and this can easily be demonstrated. It’s much more difficult to show that advocating for changes in healthcare costs for the poorest people in Rwanda will also save so many more children’s lives.

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