April 20, 2024

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Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH) Celebrates 20 Years of Exceptional Work in Health Development

His Eminence, Antoine Cardinal Kambanda handing over the Recognition to the UNICEF Country Representative

TOP AFRICA NEWS Reports

On December 14, 2023, the Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH) marked its 20th anniversary with a grand celebration attended by religious leaders, government officials, and development partners. The event aimed to express gratitude to the RICH Organization for its outstanding contributions to the development of the health sector across various fields.

Reflecting on RICH’s background, His Eminence, Antoine Cardinal Kambanda, the Chairperson of RICH emphasized the organization’s crucial response to HIV and AIDS, which were prevalent causes during the its inception.

He acknowledged the stigma and discrimination faced by individuals affected by these diseases and highlighted the need for faith-based organizations to unite in providing hope, eradicating fear, and delivering care and prevention messages that were consistent and complementary.

Cardinal Kambanda spoke about the dedication of faith groups in understanding the pandemic through successive training sessions. Their commitment led them to respond promptly to other health-related issues that they could collectively address. He praised their joint efforts in improving the overall health of the nation, encompassing not only physical well-being but also mental, spiritual, and emotional health.

“As faith groups and RICH continue to respond and make their contribution, our ultimate goal is to ensure the country realizes sound health of body, mind, spirit, and soul, recognizing that they are all interconnected,” concluded Cardinal Kambanda.

The 20th-anniversary celebration showcased the remarkable achievements of RICH over the past two decades. The organization has played a pivotal role in promoting healthcare services, raising awareness about diseases, and implementing preventive measures throughout Rwanda.

Government officials praised RICH’s unwavering commitment to improving healthcare access and quality across the country.

Although the initial focus of RICH was on HIV/AIDS, the activities have since been expanded to include Child Health, Reproductive Health, Communicable and Non-Communicable Diseases, Mental Health, and capacity building.

Speaking at the event, the Minister of Local Government, Musabyimana Jean Claude, who was the chief guest, said, “We appreciate the 20 years of good work that RICH has been doing to protect the lives of Rwandans. Therefore, this anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements in collaboration with the various partners with whom you have worked together.”

He mentioned the latest census where over 95% of Rwandans have a religion, indicating the significant role religious institutions play in the country’s life.

Minister Musabyimana said:” The collaboration between the Christian and Islamic faiths to promote health is a valuable contribution to the government’s efforts to safeguard the well-being of Rwandans.”

“This is particularly significant as these actions have a wide reach and can quickly impact numerous individuals throughout the entire country.” He added.

Minister Musabimana also added that RICH was established during a period when the country required a cooperation in an exceptional manner.

“This was because we were still grappling with the severe and numerous aftermaths of the Genocide against the Tutsis.” He explained

Dr. Yvan Butera, the State Minister in the Ministry of Health, added that “Looking back, we can see that RICH was established during a crucial period when we were grappling with the HIV/AIDS. Therefore, RICH played a significant role in advocacy, disseminating information, fighting against stigma and exclusion, and raising awareness about the HIV/AIDS.”

He added: “When we look at all the activities you have done; they have contributed to helping Rwanda achieve many of its goals.”

On their side, development partners, including OXFAM, the Global Fund, and UNICEF, among others expressed their gratitude to RICH, noting that it had played its due role in bringing positive impacts on the lives of Rwandans. ​

Julianna Lindsey, UNICEF’s Country Representative to Rwanda said “Faith communities have been steadfast allies, sharing valuable knowledge and experiences that benefit children and many faiths formally encourage their members to assist those in need.”

She added that “Throughout history, religious communities have emerged as powerful advocates for the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable children, adolescents, women, and families, offering guidance and assistance.

On RICH partnership, Mrs. Julianna revealed that “UNICEF had a longstanding partnership with RICH”. She explained that “The initial focus was on capacity building on HIV-related issues, leading to the formalization of collaboration through an MOU in 2010.”

The two later broadened their engagement to other areas.

“In 2015, together we launched the Facts for Life booklet, which gives basic information to young people about taking care of themselves. And then in 2016, we integrated early childhood development and nutrition issues into that.” She said.

“The religious network emerged as a pivotal force in advocating for ECD services, contributing facilities to enhance child care and protection. And in the same regard, women’s unions were engaged, where discussions on gender equality, economic empowerment, and protection of the rights of girls and women, especially teen mothers, were discussed and solutions found.” She said.

Speaking at this celebration, The Permanent Secretary of Global Fund Country Representative, Mr. Cyiza Innocent commended RICH noting that “It’s a complimentary to be a competent contestant, especially when there are fans to be contested for.”

He added “Every time RICH comes; they have to succeed.” Realizing that RICH has shown its commitment in finding solutions, Mrs. Mukampabuka Immaculee, the OXFAM country Representative requested RICH to go beyond health and also focus on Environment and Climate Change issues since they both affect the lives of People

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