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MSF in Rwanda, 2001
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MSF Responds to Needs Stemming From War and Genocide
Rwanda is still reeling from the genocide in 1994 and the large-scale population displacements that rocked the country in the early and mid-1990s. The country also remains embroiled in war in neighboring Congo.
Pressing health concerns include mental trauma stemming from the genocide, war-related injuries, rising rates of HIV/AIDS, and diseases such as malaria, cholera, and meningitis. The health system lacks investment, with the government continuing to invest much of its budget, and its attention, in the war.
Assisting Traumatized Women
Many women were subject to torture and sexual violence during the genocide. Many also lost their husbands and faced the strain of taking over as head of the household. To aid these women, MSF joined forces with three Rwandan NGOs in August 2000 to create group therapy and awareness-raising sessions. MSF trains Rwandan trauma counselors, who lead the groups.
Another new project seeks to educate children about HIV/AIDS, which now affects more than 11% of the adult population (ages 15-49). This program reaches all primary schools in Cyangugu and Kigali prefectures—a total of nearly 28,000 children. In late 2001, direct care for people living with AIDS will begin in Kigali, the capital.
Support for Bushenge Health District
MSF continues its support of the Bushenge health district in Cyangugu prefecture. Since 1997, MSF has helped improve care in the district's hospital and nine health centers. In 2000, maternity wards were built in two of the health centers. MSF also began a project to improve water and sanitation by constructing water supply and rainwater collection systems to supply five health centers. This program includes response to epidemics related to the water supply, such as the cholera outbreak that hit the area in late summer 2000.
MSF also remains ready to respond to other emergencies. After fighting in northwestern Rwanda in June 2001, MSF began surgical intervention in Ruhengeri.
Witness to Past Events
In spring 2001, MSF doctor Rony Zachariah was called to testify at a groundbreaking trial in Belgium of four Rwandans accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. He spoke about what he had seen in April 1994, when Rwanda was plunged into the butchery that would claim the lives of one million people. The defendants were eventually found guilty.
Although Zachariah testified as an individual, and not as a representative of MSF, his presence in the Brussels courtroom with the full support of the organization attested to the importance of witnessing, or "témoignage," as part of MSF's mission.
MSF has been working in Rwanda since 1991.