As Rwanda’s public health system ramps up COVID-19 prevention efforts, a unique partnership between ICAP and Resolve to Save Lives (RTSL) is rapidly scaling up trainings for health care workers across the country on critical infection prevention control measures.

Amid the surge of coronavirus cases around the world, hospital capacity has been greatly reduced, with primary health care facilities—such as small clinics and doctor’s offices—frequently serving as the first port-of-call for patients. Some estimate that almost 80% of COVID-19 patients will be seen first at primary health care facilities, placing health care workers at these smaller facilities at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection. And, while their counterparts at the hospital-level often receive COVID-specific trainings and protection, primary health care workers at these front line facilities are often overlooked. Rwanda’s public health sector is aiming to prevent this knowledge and skills gap in its health workforce, leveraging international technical assistance to enable health care workers to protect themselves, their patients, and their communities from COVID-19 infection.

Under the leadership of the Rwanda Ministry of Health, ICAP and the Rwanda College of Physicians are working in close partnership to quickly scale up health worker trainings and communities of practice in support of the country’s pandemic response. The training initiative aims to provide the primary health care workforce with in-service trainings to identify potential cases and triage care; prevent infections of health care workers and patients seeking any kind of clinical services; maintain essential health services; and communicate to their patients and communities about the risks of COVID-19. Trainers from the Rwanda College of Physicians lead health workers through each module during socially distanced in-person sessions. The educational materials, which have been formally adopted by the Ministry of Health, are based on previously developed trainings from ICAP, the Rwanda national COVID-19 management guidelines, and national standard operating procedures.

The initiative, which is funded through the support of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of the global public health organization Vital Strategies, currently provides high-impact trainings in 13 countries across sub-Saharan Africa, including Rwanda.

“ICAP in Rwanda is proud to be working in tandem with the Rwanda College of Physicians under the leadership of the Ministry of Health to rapidly build capacity of health care workers in COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures through the creation and national adaptation of critical training materials,” said Dr. Veronicah Mugisha, country director of ICAP in Rwanda. “Through the provision of well-established technical teams, we have been able to support the Ministry of Health’s efforts to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus here in Rwanda, rolling out trainings in 10 public hospitals and 146 health centers in record-time. These trainings ensure that health workers on the front lines are better prepared to meet the needs of susceptible populations in the path of the pandemic and protect themselves.”

Other public health organizations working in Rwanda have joined the Ministry of Health’s call for increased COVID training for primary health providers, including the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF. This cooperation, which counts on  ICAP’s expertise in large-scale health interventions and training curriculum development, promises to improve  the national effort to respond to the ongoing pandemic.

“Thanks to these critical trainings led by specially trained physicians from our College, health care providers across Rwanda are better prepared to care for themselves and their patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are greatly appreciative of ICAP’s support in this important initiative,” said Dr Charlotte Bavuma, President of the Rwanda College of Physicians.

Photo credits – Header image: Rwanda College of Physicians via Twitter

A global health leader since 2003, ICAP was founded at Columbia University with one overarching goal: to improve the health of families and communities. Together with its partners—ministries of health, large multilaterals, health care providers, and patients—ICAP strives for a world where health is available to all. To date, ICAP has addressed major public health challenges and the needs of local health systems through 6,000 sites across more than 30 countries.


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