The Twubakane Program Celebrates Five Successful Years in Rwanda

The USAID-funded Twubakane Health and Decentralization Program, a five-year, IntraHealth-led project, celebrated its successes on December 18 in Kigali, Rwanda. Twubakane was instituted to improve Rwandan’s access to high quality family planning, reproductive health, child survival, malaria, and nutrition services through a decentralizing health care system. Along with improving public health, Twubakane aimed to promote sustainable use of community health services.

At Twubakane’s end-of-program celebration, the nearly 200 participants heard about the many successes and lessons learned throughout the project. Highlighted 2009 results included 100% access to long-acting methods of contraception at health centers in supported districts (up from under 10% at the program’s inception); 86,458 children under five treated for malaria at the community level (in 2009 alone); and 411 health care providers trained and supported in the integrated management of childhood illness.

Celebration participants included Minister of Health (MOH) Richard Sezibera, US Ambassador W. Stuart Symington and the USAID Mission Director, Dennis Weller. Other guests included the MOH Permanent Secretary of Health Agnes Binagwaho, Rwandan mayors, hospital directors, other representatives from the 12 Twubakane-supported districts. IntraHealth representatives included Pape Gaye, president and CEO, and Sara Stratton, director of Maternal, Neonatal, and Children’s Health/Family Planning programs. IntraHealth’s project partners—RTI, Tulane University and EngenderHealth—were also represented at the event, along with other local and international NGOs and other partners in health and development in Rwanda.

During his remarks, the minister noted Twubakane’s success and credited the program with creating a demand for quality and quantity of services. “Whether it was family planning, child health or community services, we called on the IntraHealth team, and they were there,” said Sezibera. “They share in all of these results that the health sector has realized over the past few years.  The project may be over for now, but there is still work to be done, and we all have to join forces to do it together.” Highlighting the program’s flexible approach and its ability to respond to and support the evolution of Rwanda’s rapidly changing decentralized health systems, he also noted the excellent relationships that the Tuwbakane Program staff had with the Ministry of Health team.  The minister praised the technical and financial support the program provided to the districts and to the Ministries of Health and Local Governance.

The US Ambassador noted that the word “Twubakane,” Kinyarwanda for “let’s build together,” accurately represented not only the spirit of the Twubakane Program but how the US Government and other donor agencies want work in Rwanda.

The District Mayor of Nyaruguru, representing all 12 district mayors, noted the unique approach of Twubakane in truly listening to and responding to local needs.  The Director of Gitwe Hospital, in Ruhango District, representing hospitals in the partner districts, noted the importance of Twubakane’s skills in listening.  “They listened to our needs, and helped us meet them.  Fewer women are dying during childbirth, thanks not only to the training Twubakane provided, but also to the equipment we were able to purchase for our maternity ward.”

Gaye reiterated the important of partnership at all levels, and assured the Government of Rwanda representatives and other partners present that IntraHealth will continue to seek opportunities to work with Rwanda and to support the country in its ambitious efforts. During her presentation of overall Twubakane Program achievement, Chief of Party Laura Hoemeke presented a number of key results, including increases in the use of family planning services, prenatal care, and facility-based delivery, as well as increased involvement of communities in ensuring high-quality services as the health center and community level. Hoemeke noted, “Twubakane strove to not introduce our own programs, materials and approaches, fostering greater sustainability by supporting those that are introduced and endorsed by the Government of Rwanda.”

The nearly 200 participants enjoyed the interactive event, which concluded with traditional dancing and a group lunch.