In 2002, only 50,000 people living with with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa had access to anti-retroviral drugs. President George W. Bush sought to address the millions of people affected by the disease with his PEPFAR program and US participation in the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2002-2003. Today, over 12.9 million people now have access to ARVs worldwide, restoring health and life not only for individuals but also for families and communities.

While we may be winning the war on global AIDS, we still have much work to do in order to make comparable progress in improving the health of children and mothers.

Over 6.9 million children died last year in the developing world from preventable, treatable disease. Forty percent of those were newborns in their first month of life. Many of these children died of pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria. And their deaths could easily have been averted with simple interventions like vaccines, oral rehydration, and bed nets.

Moreover, 1 of every 39 delivering women last year in Africa died in childbirth, and more than 287,000 women died worldwide from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Yet there are simple methods to prevent these deaths as well. Successful models for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, alongside an increase in births taking place in health centers with skilled care during delivery and post-partum care, offer clear paths to reduce maternal mortality and improve child survival.

Isaiah 65 describes a new heaven and a new earth. The prophet foretells a time where the wolf will lie down with the lamb. When homes will be settled, and the land will bear fruit. And, "no more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days." Infant mortality will cease. Perhaps that day is closer at hand than we could have imagined.

The good news is that we have the information and highly effective tools for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including both fertility-based natural methods and modern contraceptives, to combat maternal and infant mortality. For instance, if a young woman in Africa can "time" or delay her first pregnancy until age 18 or later, she is much less likely to die or be crippled by medical complications, and dramatically more likely to stay in secondary school, and perhaps even attend college, providing stable financial support for her family to have a brighter future. Then, if she can "space" her pregnancies just three years apart, her children are twice as likely to survive infancy.

Through Hope Through Healing Hands, Doctor-Senator Bill Frist and I support healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies as the most critical global health issue today. We believe it's set to have ripple effects across societies: combating extreme poverty, promoting gender equality, keeping young girls and children in schools, improving maternal and child health, and preventing infectious disease.

But for awareness of this issue to spread, we need Christian partners to recognize family planning as a global pro-life cause. Spacing pregnancies saves lives and improves lives. Notable faith leaders and influentials are among the Christian moms and parents who have joined our Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. But we have just begun.

As we work together, let's also continue to pray for a new heaven and a new earth, as described by Isaiah, where maternal and infant mortality will be no more.

Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the executive director of Hope Through Healing Hands, a global health organization committed to improving the quality of life for communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Dyer also teaches Global Health Politics and Policy at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Currently, she directs The Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide, galvanizing faith leaders and other influentials for maternal, newborn, and child health.

Originally published in The Tennessean

Big names will bring a global conversation about women and children’s health to Nashville on Monday.

Bill Frist, a physician and former U.S. senator, and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will host a “community conversation” at Belmont University about maternal and child health in developing countries. Former U.S. figure skater Scott Hamilton will moderate the event, according to a release from Frist’s charity Hope Through Healing Hands.

The organization partnered with the Gates Foundation in February to found the Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. The initiative encourages American faith leaders to promote “healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies” in developing countries, the release said.

It also aims to increase access to contraceptives and decrease abortion rates. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund say at least 200 million womenworldwide lack access to safe family planning methods. The Gates Foundation says a quarter of the 80 million women who had unintended pregnancies in 2012 underwent unsafe abortions.

Three local churches — Brentwood Baptist Church, Christ Church Nashville and the People’s Church in Franklin — have endorsed the coalition, as have notable Nashvillians Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith.

Hope Through Healing Hands will also fund a Frist Global Health Leader award for a Belmont graduate student. The program sends students and doctors to work in countries that lack medical workers and other resources.

Reach Noah Manskar at 615-259-8228 and on Twitter @noahmanskar.

We are excited to share this update from our friends at Seed. We can't wait to hear about the great things that come from this class of volunteers!

We are thrilled to announce the new class of Global Health Service Partnership Volunteers has arrived in Washington DC for orientation. This class of 42 volunteers is made up of a remarkable group of US physicians and nurses. They come from 22 states from around the US, range in age from their late twenties to late sixties, represent myriad specialties including obstetrics and gynecology, anesthesia, surgery, and mental health, and seven are returned Peace Corps Volunteers eager to apply their clinical experience in service. They are made up of 19 physicians and 23 nurses who will return to our partner sites in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. We are proud that three are first year GHSP volunteers who have decided to continue for a second year. 
 
These 42 volunteers will build on our extraordinary first year. We just returned from our Close of Service conference and were thrilled by the impact our first class had. Volunteers reported improving education, patient care and making a lasting impact on their professions. A few stories:
 
Matt Robinson, a physician volunteer in northern Uganda, shared how on his departure he was told by the head of his department that the mortality rate drastically reduced after his co-volunteer and he started. Further, they impacted retention. Most students do not choose generally to stay in government hospitals to work. This year, Matt overheard five graduating students ask if they could be taken up as interns at the hospital. Before, people only stayed because it was required. Now, they stay because they are choosing to. 
 
Kelly Lippi, a nurse volunteer, worked at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in southwest Uganda in the Bachelor's of Nursing program. Of her 150 students, less than two had chosen nursing as their profession. Most students wanted to go into medicine, veterinary medicine, or pharmacy. Nursing was a last choice, but none of these nurses knew what being a nurse could be. Kelly was determined to show them this. Every day, she would come with stories about how nurses could change lives and make a difference. At the end of her year, she asked for evaluations. One student wrote "you have made me feel that I have chosen the best profession in the world." The student further elaborated she was excited to share this with her future students. Kelly achieved her goal.
 
Maureen Ries, a obstetrician working in northern Tanzania, held a conference for the labor nurses at her hospital. She taught 45 new nurses skills and protocols to make them feel more comfortable about the tasks about which they were responsible. After the conference, Maureen was presenting to her fellow physicians and was asked if all the nurses in the rural communities had attended Maureen's conference too. Maureen learned that the 45 nurses had all spread the updates Maureen had taught to the outside communities and the nurses were now updating the doctors there. Maureen provided essential education for the hospital staff, but its impact was far larger. 
 
We are excited to see this same energy and impact build over this next year. None of this success is possible without your support. We thank you for your commitment to Seed's mission of building sustainable workforces and welcome you to continue this journey with us. 
 
Vanessa and the Seed team

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                            

Contact: Melany Ethridge (972) 267-1111, [email protected]

Or: Kate Etue (615) 481-8420 (m)

Nashville, Tenn.--Senator Bill Frist, M.D., founder of Hope Through Healing Hands, and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are set to lead a community conversation on “The Mother & Child Project: Simple Steps to Saving Lives in the Developing World,” on Monday, July 14, at Belmont University.

Influencers from throughout Nashville and members of the media are invited to take part in the discussion, which will be hosted by Belmont University and moderated by Scott Hamilton, U.S. Figure Skating Olympic champion, television commentator, and philanthropist, who with his wife, Tracie, has a great passion for global health.

Hope Through Healing Hands (HTHH), a Nashville-based global health organization, recently partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create the Faith-based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. Its mission is to galvanize faith leaders across the U.S. on the issues of maternal, newborn and child health in developing countries. It emphasizes the benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, including the voluntary use of methods for preventing pregnancy, not including abortion, that are harmonious with members’ values and religious beliefs.

“Currently, more than 6.9 million children die every year in the developing world from preventable, treatable causes. More than 287,000 women die every year due to complications of pregnancy or childbirth, most of these deaths occurring in Africa and South Asia,” Senator Frist explained. “With a focus on healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, we can make major strides in just a few years. That’s great news for women, children, and our entire world.”

HTHH Executive Director, Jenny Dyer, Ph.D notes, “This one issue—healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies–could be a key to saving lives and economic empowerment in the developing world.”

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commented, “When women are able to plan their families, the positive benefits last a lifetime – they have healthier pregnancies, healthier newborns and healthier children. Faith-based organizations, with their deep roots in communities, can play a critical role in expanding access to information and tools to space births. Together, these efforts can build on the remarkable progress we’ve made toward saving and improving the lives of women and children around the world.”

In addition to hosting the July 14 event, Belmont University will also be partnering with Hope Through Healing Hands via a Frist Global Health Leader award, which will fund a global health overseas experience for a Belmont graduate student. Belmont Provost Dr. Thomas Burns noted, “Belmont is committed to preparing compassionate and engaged healthcare leaders who can tackle the difficult issues of a 21st century world. Empowering healthy mothers and children through awareness and knowledge fits well with our mission, and Hope Through Healing Hands is a perfect partner for the University as we seek to expand global health opportunities for our students.”

The Mother & Child Project event will focus on these topics, addressing questions from the audience and those submitted in advance to [email protected]. A light breakfast will be served at 9:30 a.m. in the Maddox Grand Atrium at the Curb Event Center on the Belmont University Campus, at 2002 Belmont Boulevard, Nashville. The discussion will follow at 10 a.m. Parking is available at the Curb Event Center Garage on Bernard Avenue (between Belmont Boulevard and 15th Avenue South).

Information about those who have joined the coalition to date, as well as how others can help, is available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.com/faith-based-coalition. Endorsements for the coalition are available at http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.com/endorsements_1.

Hope Through Healing Hands is a Nashville-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) whose mission is to promote improved quality of life for citizens and communities around the world using health as a currency for peace. Senator Bill Frist, M.D., is the founder and chair of the organization, and Jenny Eaton Dyer, Ph.D., is the CEO/Executive Director.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information, visit http://alarryross.com/newsroom/hope-through-healing-hands-2/.

We're loving this infographic from The Girl Effect that shows why it's so smart to invest in girls. Read it and share it. Girls matter, and our world need them strong, healthy, and educated. By ending child marriage and child motherhood, we allow a generation of girls to stay in school, become educated, and contribute back to their local economy. And this will change the world.

The Girl Effect info graphic

Senator Frist's new USAID video on family planning—the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy—is a great, concise explanation of the problems centered around maternal mortality and what we can do to help, because we know it works. Take 1 minute and 52 seconds to watch it. It'll be worth your time.

I’ve been home from Rwanda and Kenya only a few days and I’m already on another flight, heading back to Aspen, this time for the Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight: Health, co-sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

It’s on flights that I have time to reflect on a few takeaways, drawn from the myriad impressions and experiences I gathered in Rwanda. I tell everyone that journeys to Africa are life-changing and indeed this one was for me, and hopefully those who joined me.

  • Partners in Health—that unique Boston-based nonprofit global health organization—is uniquely positioned in Rwanda to develop research-based health service models that can be applied around the world. In fact, we in the States have much to learn from these. It’s well on its way to doing innovative, PROVEN programs of science-based health delivery; creating disciplined training programs; and even taking aggressive cancer therapy to the rural poor in a way that is economical and effective.
  • Paul Farmer should get the Nobel Prize. He has demonstrated in Haiti and Rwanda and around the worldthat health care can be brought to the people who need it. He has shown the world that therapy once regarded as too expensive to buy and deliver—like HIV treatment—can be effectively and inexpensively administered to the poor and rural. And now he is addressing cancer treatment in rural Rwanda.
  • Gorilla health is like human health. My work with the gorilla health began at the National Zoo in Washington. Some mornings I would scrub in at 6 am over in Rock Creek Park to take care of a sick gorilla before opening the Senate as Majority Leader. My interest in gorilla health continues, and that is why I introduced our group at the base of the Virunga Mountains to the vets with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, on whose board I served for years. The upland gorilla, whose march toward extinction was reversed by Dian Fossey, has grown in number from 750 to 880 just over the years I have been involved. Animal conservation working hand in hand with animal health makes a difference. As an aside, I want to raise a red flag to the rapidly growing problem throughout Africa of elephants being massacred for ivory.
  • ONE health is a concept and a movement I hope others come to understand. It gives name to my conviction of focusing time and energies on human health, animal health, and environmental health. Health and healing applies to all—in Rwanda to the land around us, the farmers, the cows and buffalo, all interacting integrally with each other, as so clearly manifested at the base of the Virunga Mountains. Living side by side with mutual respect for each is the only answer. Gorillas are extremely susceptible to human-borne illness. Crowding brings buffalo in close contact with the gorillas, contaminating waterholes and leading to disease and death. Too many people still rely on bush meat for food, killing gorilla and monkeys. Gorillas are also threatened by hunters trying to trap antelopes for holidays and celebrations, unintentionally ensnaring baby gorillas. Health for one is health for all.
  • The HRH program in Kigali blew me away. It will work and I predict become the model of the future where governments are not corrupt. It is built around partnerships. Twenty-six US universities partner with USAID, the source of $33 million, to deliver and improve health services in Rwanda. The process through which the money flows goes like this: the American taxpayer gives his money to USAID who channels the money to government of Rwanda led by Paul Kagame who channels the money through the highly respected Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho. Dr. Binagwaho distributes the money to the sites; 86 health professionals on the ground lead large programs to improve health service delivery. An orthopedic surgeon from the Brigham in Boston or a hospital administrator from Yale may then come to introduce systems to the Rwandan hospitals and district pharmaceutical distribution center. Over an eight year period, the goal is to train Rwandan workers with the skills and knowledge to build and sustain their own programs over years to come. It is working and it is a wise and smart use of the taxpayers’ dollars.
  • Paul Kagame is the man for the times. He has courageously taken a country that in 1994 was deeply divided by genocide, which claimed the lives of 20% of the population, and deeply divided by artificial colonial convictions, and though strong leadership has reconciled the people, formally achieving forgiveness in the immediate aftermath of neighbor-killing-neighbor, and establishing and maintaining remarkable peace. At the same time his belief in markets and investment has led to 29 years of annualized growth of 8% and is greatly expanding the middle class. His leadership is dramatic. He leads from above but implementation begins at the village level. When the president says thatched grass roofs lead to poor health and suggests replacement, it is each neighborhood that comes together every Friday over a two year period to assist in replacing the grass roofs with metal ones. When it is identified that wearing no shoes, the African custom, allows parasites to enter the body leading to disability and death, a proclamation from above to wear shoes was implemented at the community level almost immediately. The New York Times and New Yorker don’t like him, but I think he is an amazing man who has saved his country of 11 million people.
  • Journeys to Africa by Americans are a good thing. Our group of 10, half of whom had not been to Africa, bonded and shared our own perspectives in a close, personal, and intimate way. Africa touches one’s heart. It inspires. It cause one to dream. It changes your life.
  • Health care is improving fast in Rwanda. Vaccinations far surpass those in the US. Childhood mortality has been cut by 2/3. The basic district health clinics are accessible to all and they place a heavy emphasis on family planning, healthy pregnancies, and early childhood health and nutritionMaternal, newborn, and child health are the foundations of strong communities. The fledgling national health insurance system is solid and growing fast and has been received well. The system gets by with MRIs and CT scanners. It has only one urologist in the country and five pathologists. Heart surgery is rarely done. But all that will change as the economy improves. The new cancer center at Butero, established at the district hospital as a brainchild of Paul Farmer and the Ministry of Health, will greatly expand cancer therapy the county, heretofore lost in all of the attention on infectious or communicable diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis.
  • On my return journey, I stopped in Nairobi, Kenya. Crime in Nairobi is high—street crime and home invasions with burglary and carjacking. Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali terrorist group, is increasingly threatening the city. Tourists are not coming and hotel census is down. Corruption rules the government and police, it seems. But commerce continues and I spent a day in a wonderful market and had top notch service at the Tribe Hotel, where Jonathan, my son, introduced me to the wonderful family who has developed it.

Originally published at The Hill

When parents in America think about their children turning five, sending them off to kindergarten for the first time can be stressful. But if you live in the developing world, your biggest worry is whether your children will even live to see their fifth birthday.

But that is changing, and this year six million fewer children will die before their 5th birthday than in 1990.  To put that in perspective, that’s 2 million more children than are even in kindergarten in America today.  Driving that change is an unparalleled reduction in deaths and sickness from pneumonia, diarrhea, measles, HIV/AIDS, malaria, polio and neglected tropical diseases.

This is a global sea change, and if it surprises you, you are not alone. Relatively few Americans are aware of this remarkable story, much less the role the United States and many other global actors played in making it happen.

Americans can be proud that these unprecedented advances would not have happened without our involvement as the largest single donor to global health and working in historic collaboration with the other governments, multilateral institutions, local entities, NGOs, civic groups, faith and business communities, universities and philanthropies.

As the majority and minority leaders of the Senate in 2003 when the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, was created, we know firsthand how pivotal the U.S. role was in one of the biggest pieces of the global health puzzle.

Through PEPFAR – which President George W. Bush initiated with vision and strength, and President Obama has worked hard to continue – the U.S. led the international community by providing tens of billions of dollars to stop the spread of HIV, giving appropriate care to the millions ravaged by AIDS and keeping them alive with anti-retroviral and other interventions.

PEPFAR is one of the crowning examples of how American resolve and leadership can bring about an enormous impact with a relatively small portion of our national budget. It shows that Democrats and Republicans can actually agree on historic health initiatives, not only on HIV/AIDS, but also in tackling malaria, vaccines, clean water and other smart and effective interventions. That same collaboration of compassion can continue to save millions of lives in the future.   

The improved child survival rates are so startling they are hard to believe at first glance. According to a 2013 UNICEF report, the global mortality rate of children under five years old dropped by 47 percent, from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 48 per 1,000 in 2012. In some regions, the decline in under-five mortality was even steeper– as high as 65 percent in both the East Asia and Pacific and the Latin America and Caribbean regions.

A large portion of the progress came in much of the last decade, not coincidentally after the historic international commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. UNICEF estimates that, as compared to 12 years ago, today 700,000 fewer children die of pneumonia, and 600,000 fewer children die of measles.

Not only did deaths decline, so did sicknesses. Polio cases have decreased by more than 99 percent since 1988, when the disease was endemic in 125 countries. Today, polio is in only three countries. That is nearly all-out eradication of a dreaded malady that it seemed would never go away.

Encouraged as we all should be about the successes so far, there remain 6.6 million children under five who will not reach their fifth birthdays this year, dying mainly from preventable diseases. That is just not acceptable. Without a similar commitment by the U.S. and other international partners in the foreseeable future, we risk squandering the gains of the last 25 years and missing the opportunity to go even further in the next 25. We must keep driving the momentum that got global health to this point.

Some worry the commitment could wane, as Congress has struggled of late to achieve bipartisan consensus on much of anything and, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, a majority of Americans prefer to limit our international engagement to take care of problems at home.

Based on our experience with PEPFAR and other global health initiatives, we are convinced members of Congress from both sides of the aisle remain united around the small, but smart, investments in global health that have historically yielded extraordinary results.

And this week, businesses, NGO, faith, civic and philanthropic leaders are increasing their own investments, coming together to affirm their commitments of more than $2 billion of private resources to invest in ensuring children survive and thrive beyond their fifth birthday.

The world knows what works to increase child survival rates, and we can do this.  But doing it will require continue bipartisan cooperation and the energetic grassroots efforts that made the last 25 years of progress possible.

Daschle served South Dakota in the U.S. Senate from 1987 to 2005 and was the Majority Leader from 2001 to 2003. Frist served Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007 and was Majority Leader from 2003 to 2007.

*I’m in Rwanda this week representing Hope Through Healing Hands with Dr. Paul Farmer, Partners in Health Rwanda, and Harvard Medical School. These dispatches from the road are my personal journal–recording what I’ve seen and learned on this trip. See my pre-trip thoughts, and blogs from MondayTuesday, and Wednesday

Today we went to see some of Rwanda’s natural treasures: mountain gorillas.

Rwanda has a long history of gorilla conservation. Dian Fossey, author of Gorillas in the Mist, founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda in 1967 and studied gorillas in the Virunga Volcanoes until her death in 1985.

We were hosted by Gorilla Doctors, a mountain gorilla veterinary project supported by the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and dedicated to saving the mountain gorilla species one gorilla patient at a time. Gorilla Doctors serve the mountain gorillas throughout the Virunga Volcano Mountain Range that spans Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

With Gorilla Doctor guides, we spent six rainy hours trekking through Volcanoes National Park looking for the Titus family of 10 gorillas—including one silverback and one 3 month old newborn. We finally caught up with them at about 9,000 feet.

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These incredible creatures are monogamous vegetarians. Each mother has 4-5 children during her lifetime, starting when she’s about eight years old. They can live to be 43 years.

At one point, the gorilla population here was down to 250 animals. When I visited in 2008, there were 750. Today, Gorilla Doctors estimates that there are 880 gorillas.

But gorillas are not quite the departure from human health that they may seem.

Dr. Jan Ramer, regional manager of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, explained that Gorilla Doctors approach their work from the “one health” perspective, a belief that the health of one species is inextricably linked to that of its entire ecosystem, including humans and other animal species.

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It’s easy to see how closely the species connect.

The number one killer of gorillas is trauma. On our walk we came across three rope and wire snares. Though meant for antelope, gorillas, especially infants and juveniles, sometimes get caught in these snares. Gorillas may lose limbs or digits to snares, or die as a result of infection or strangulation. Gorilla Doctors respond to reports of gorillas in snares and work to treat their wounds and release them.

The number two killer of gorillas is infectious diseases, and humans and gorillas are susceptible to the same diseases. In fact, the most common infection in gorillas is respiratory disease, which can range from a mild cold to severe pneumonia, in individuals or in whole groups. These diseases are often passed from human to gorilla.

I’ve worked with these animals before, even doing some gorilla surgery, but seeing them in their homes never gets old. Amazing creatures.

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*I’m in Rwanda this week representing Hope Through Healing Hands with Dr. Paul Farmer, Partners in Health Rwanda, and Harvard Medical School. These dispatches from the road are my personal journal–recording what I’ve seen and learned on this trip. See my pre-trip thoughtsMonday’s blog, and Tuesday’s notes.

This morning we met with patients and physicians at Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Kigali (CHUK), the urban hospital equivalent. For the past few days we have explored Paul Farmer’s vision of taking health care to the people in rural areas, so often neglected around the world.  Today we looked at health care in the city.

CHUK is the primary teaching hospital, located in the heart of Kigali. With 25 departments—17 clinical and 8 administrative—CHUK provides training, clinical research, and technical support to Rwanda’s 39 district hospitals.

Again we were able to meet patients and hospital staff. I was particularly impressed with this three-year-old little firecracker. He fractured his hip falling out of tree, but that wasn’t keeping him down! I also had the honor of meeting this dedicated woman. She’s served as a nurse in all of CHUK’s departments over the past 11 years.

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Over and over I’m impressed with how much Rwanda, with PIH and other groups, has accomplished.

For instance, Rwanda has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world—a status they have achieved through very hard work over the past eight years.

Vaccines for children here are a series of six individual vaccines that begin at birth over the first two years of life. In a country with about 11.5 million people—the majority of whom are very poor, a 94% vaccination rate has been achieved through national campaigns centered in communities. The vaccines are administered through community health centers in each of the villages. This is really, truly remarkable.

Breast and cervical cancer have been on the rise in Rwanda, so in 2010, a national campaign to vaccinate schoolgirls against HPV began that is gradually making it across the country through community health centers. The hospital at Butaro—where we were yesterday—is participating in research and the collection of data around this vaccine.

It works; it’s a great vaccine. For cervical cancer it’s very important. And Rwanda is taking a leadership role. As you can imagine, cancer is not treated well in the developing parts of the world. So it’s pretty remarkable that both a vaccine program and cancer care are coming together here.

Of course Rwanda’s remarkable progress is contrasted by the genocide that took place here 20 years ago.

This afternoon we visited the moving Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the history of genocide worldwide is powerfully presented. It was a return visit for me, but no less humbling.

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Last time I was here, a bipartisan group of Senators laid a memorial wreath. This time, I considered what Rwanda has accomplished in those 20 years:

  • a dedicated nurse spending 11 years caring for the sick;
  • Partners in Health Rwanda’s work over the past nine years;
  • a nationwide vaccine program against polio, tuberculosis, and measles, for the past eight years; and
  • the PIH Women’s and Girls Initiative training women for the past six years.

But these are only the beginning.

Maybe the most hopeful thing I saw today was the work of Human Resources for Health (HRH). We had the privilege of meeting physicians from this innovative Rwanda-U.S. joint partnership to strengthen the Rwandan health care system.

Harvard Medical School, USAID and other US government programs are funding about 70 to 100 clinicians and administrators and planners through the Rwandan Ministry of Health to develop the clinical service infrastructure.

These are inspiring mid-career physicians from Harvard-affiliated hospitals who are changing the world. Our tour was conducted by an American orthopedic surgeon who is dedicating a period of her life to serving the hospital and the training program of young Rwandan physicians.  They are all heroes.

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The program, funded by the American Taxpayer and in its second year of an eight year commitment, is a tremendously powerful and smart investment in the future.

What is needed in Rwanda—and globally!—is a long term plan. HRH is building up infrastructure which is so badly needed to lift up the health sector here. But equally importantly, their work will make health care in Rwanda sustainable and prepared for the future.

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