The History of the END Fund in Rwanda
Villagers living near Ruhondo Lake in Rwanda are proud of their prospering community. People make their living by growing maize and rice, fishing, and running small businesses. “Living conditions are improving, the economy is growing every day,” said Felicien, a resident of the area.
However, the lake, rice paddies, and maize fields are sources of schistosomiasis and intestinal worms. That’s why residents eagerly accept treatment provided by community health workers, and view these drugs as essential to their wellbeing. “Taking the drugs is a relief for us. We always take them when they are available so that we are strong and able to work hard,” said Pascasie, a local farmer.
Rwanda has made enormous progress in improving socioeconomic conditions since the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi. Eliminating diseases of poverty such as schistosomiasis and intestinal worms will help ensure sustained growth and prosperity.
The national NTD program was launched in 2007, targeting five NTDs for which treatment is available. At that time, the Legatum Foundation supported the Ministry of Health (MoH) to conduct disease mapping, equip health facilities with diagnostic tools, train health personnel and drug distributors, and track progress of NTD treatment and control efforts. This work laid the foundation for the NTD program and bolstered the capacities of the national health system.
Established in 2012 by the Legatum Foundation, the END Fund went on to support the Rwandan government to develop and implement its National NTD Strategic Plan. A grant from the END Fund allowed the Rwandan NTD Control Program to further embed NTD knowledge in the local communities and the health system by training approximately 45,000 community health workers and conducting mass drug administration (MDA) for intestinal worms and schistosomiasis. In total, over 85.8 million treatments have been delivered to date (2013 – 2021), and levels of both diseases have been dramatically reduced. Building on this decade of success, the Rwandan government is expanding treatment to all populations at risk of these diseases, which will help break the cycle of transmission for good.
NTD indicators were added to Rwanda’s health management information system in 2012, propelling the country towards integrating NTDs into the existing national health system. Today, Rwanda funds its own school-based deworming program and has the ambitious goals of eliminating schistosomiasis as a public health problem by bringing prevalence below 0.5%, and bringing intestinal worm prevalence below 20% by 2024. The END Fund’s Deworming Innovation Fund is dedicated to working with the MoH to sustain and grow the NTD program through local capacity building, innovation, and cross-sectoral partnerships — ensuring that every community in need of deworming is reached.
“I want to thank the government of Rwanda that comes to us in our villages to bring to us these drugs that keep us healthy. We all are very happy that these drugs are available, and that we get them at no cost.”
– Felicien Habyarimana, resident of Kamato Village in the district of Musanze, Rwanda.