Kigali, May 9, 2016 (AFP) - At least 49 people were killed this weekend in landslides caused by torrential rains in rural Rwanda, the government said on Monday. Authorities had previously given a death toll of 20, many of them children, as downpours drenched the densely populated country of steep hills and deep valleys. "During the night of 7-8 May 2016, heavy rains caused landslides in several parts of Rwanda, resulting in loss of lives, and destructing of homes, infrastructure and other property," a statement said.
The worst affected district was Gakenke in the north, where 34 people were killed, with another 15 dead and 26 injured in western parts of the country. "Over 500 houses were completely destroyed and various roads sections rendered unusable," the government said in its statement.
Landslides are not unusual in Rwanda but this year's rainy season has been particularly deadly with at least 67 people killed from January to April. Of that total, 12 people died on a single night in the suburbs of the capital Kigali, where 1,500 homes were damaged during rainstorms. Authorities blame the El Nino weather phenomenon for the disasters.
The sharp rise in malaria cases is exerting pressure on Rwanda's blood bank, raising fears that, should the infections continue at the current rate, hospitals across the country will be short of blood. This is because untimely treatment and prolonged sickness due to resistance to anti-malarial drugs, coupled with pre-existence of other health complications, make patients more likely to need blood transfusions.
Rwanda Today has learnt that health facilities in malaria-prone districts -- namely Kirehe, Nyagatare, Bugesera and Nyanza -- are experiencing the growing blood demand the most.
Government officials have, however, not directly linked the situation to the reported increase in cases of malaria, a disease that had been declared wiped out in Rwanda but has resurfaced.
"There are some hospitals that have been registering more than 50 malaria cases in a day; of course not all the patients needed blood, but those admitted in critical condition obviously have to be given a blood transfusion," Dr Swaibu Gatare, head of National Centre for Blood Transfusion (NCBT), told journalists in Kigali on Thursday [14 Jan 2016].
Rwanda was recently hit by a sharp rise in malaria infections years after the disease had been under control. Health facilities across the country documented numerous malaria cases towards the end of last year  with many patients getting admitted, triggering a shortage of malaria drugs. The Ministry of Health blamed the re-emergence of the disease partly on climate change, while officials also hinted at a possible laxity by the institutions in charge of malaria control programmes.
The sudden countrywide surge in malaria infections, coupled with a reduced turnout of blood donors during the festive days, threatened to empty the country's blood bank, officials said, despite it having seen increased stocks in the past 2 years. ==================== [According to the WHO World Malaria Report 2015 (<www.who.int/malaria/publications/world-malaria-report-2015/report/en/>), Rwanda reported 1 610 812 malaria cases in 2013, and there is a risk of infection in the entire country.
The present surge could indicate shortcomings in the national control program. Again, according to the WHO World Malaria Report 2015, the government is not covering any expenses, and the control program was entirely financed by the Global Fund for HIV, TB and Malaria in 2009, the last year for which information is available. Indeed, slide positivity and rapid test positivity rates have been increasing since 2012, indicating that the present surge has been under way for some years. - ProMED Mod.EP]
Kigali, Sept 30, 2015 (AFP) - It sounds like science fiction: unmanned drones carrying emergency medicine zooming above the rolling hills of Rwanda. But proposals -- including one by eminent British architect Norman Foster -- plan exactly that, to set up "cargo drone routes capable of delivering urgent and precious supplies to remote areas on a massive scale", with the East Africa nation of Rwanda chosen as a test case. "Specialist drones can carry blood and life-saving supplies over 100 kilometres (60 miles) at minimal cost, providing an affordable alternative that can complement road-based deliveries," the proposal reads.
Rwanda, left in ruins after genocide in 1994, has rapidly rebuilt with the government pushing initiatives to boost technology and the powerful ruler President Paul Kagame dreaming of turning the capital Kigali into a regional hub for investors and multinational companies. Government efforts have rapidly pushed mobile phone and internet coverage across the landlocked nation, but the rolling landscape of a nation dubbed the "land of a thousand hills" means physical access to some areas is more of a challenge. The proposal -- by architecture firm Foster + Partners, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne and its linked Afrotech company -- hopes to see drones with a three-metre (10-foot) wingspan able to carry deliveries weighing 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds). Drones with a six-metre (19.5 foot) wingspan, capable of carrying payloads of 100 kilogrammes (220 pounds) are planned to follow by 2025.
- 'Bold, radical solutions' - "Africa is a continent where the gap between the population and infrastructural growth is increasing exponentially," Foster said at the project launch earlier this month. "The dearth of terrestrial infrastructure has a direct impact on the ability to deliver life-giving supplies, indeed where something as basic as blood is not always available for timely treatment. We require immediate bold, radical solutions to address this issue," Foster said. The pilot project is slated to begin next year, with three "drone-port" buildings due for completion by 2020, enabling the drones to cover almost half of Rwanda's countryside. While Rwanda's government has yet to comment on the proposals, people have welcomed the plan. "The introduction of drones can add to the many solutions we have available to tackle infrastructure challenges in Rwanda," Junior Sabena Mutabazi wrote in a the pro-government New Times newspaper.
Rwanda, small, tightly controlled and where there is only modern infrastructure in key hubs, offers the chance to test case cargo drones before possible expansion into wilder, less developed countries on the continent. "The Droneport project is about doing 'more with less', capitalising on the recent advancements in drone technology -- something that is usually associated with war and hostilities -- to make an immediate life-saving impact in Africa," Foster said. Those developing the project point out that in many parts of Africa, too remote to establish telephone landlines, mobile technology leapfrogged that step, with mobiles now common across the continent even in the remotest of places.
- 'Flying robots to move goods inevitable' - Drones, it is argued, could do the same where a lack of roads has made access tough. "Cargo drone routes have utility wherever there is a lack of roads," the project proposal said. "Just as mobile phones dispensed with landlines, cargo drones can transcend geographical barriers such as mountains, lakes, and unnavigable rivers without the need for large-scale physical infrastructure." Jonathan Ledgard, from Swiss-based Afrotech -- an initiative aiming to "help pioneer advanced technologies in Africa at massive scale" -- knows the challenges, having worked as a journalist in trouble spots across the continent for the past decade.
Ledgard is convinced cargo drones will be the future, but is also determined the technology will benefit those who need it most. "It is inevitable on a crowded planet, with limited resources, that we will make more intensive use of our sky using flying robots to move goods faster, cheaper, and more accurately than ever before," Ledgard said. "But it is not inevitable that these craft or their landing sites will be engineered to be tough and cheap enough to serve poorer communities who can make most use of them," he said. "Droneport is an attempt to make that happen, and to improve health and economic outcomes in Africa - and beyond."
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 2014 09:48:15 +0200 (METDST)
KIGALI, Oct 23, 2014 (AFP) - Rwanda lifted Thursday Ebola travel restrictions on travellers who had been in the United States and Spain after the president publicly told the health minister it was not necessary. Health Minister Agnes Binagwaho had this week ordered all travellers who had been in the United States and Spain within the past three weeks to send updates to her ministry each day they are in Rwanda.
But President Paul Kagame, in messages posted on Twitter, said the restrictions had been lifted, adding that the minister had "sometimes acted first and thought later", whereas it should be the "other way round." Visitors who have been to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone within the last 21 days are barred from entry to Rwanda, which is screening all arriving travellers for Ebola.
Rwandan citizens who have travelled to the three west African countries are placed under quarantine on arrival. The deadliest-ever outbreak of Ebola has claimed more than 4,500 lives in west Africa, and experts warn the rate of infections could reach 10,000 a week by early December. There have been isolated Ebola cases of health workers in the United States and Spain, who caught the virus from those infected in west Africa.
Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:57:26 +0200 (METDST)
KIGALI, Oct 22, 2014 (AFP) - Rwanda has boosted travel restrictions to stem the spread of the Ebola virus, ordering travellers who have been in the United States and Spain to send daily updates, the health minister said Wednesday. "Every day... they should call us or send an Internet message," stating their health condition, Health Minister Agnes Binagwaho told AFP. The requirement applies to all travellers who have been in the US or Spain within the past three weeks. Messages should be sent for the first 21-days they are in Rwanda, she said. It also applies to Rwandan citizens who had been in the US or Spain.
An American visitor to Rwanda, Colleen Kate, 27, said the measure might increase confidence that Kigali was taking action, but added the checks were hard to implement practically. "I'm not a doctor, it is hard to take a temperature on the phone, they have to trust you," she said, adding that she had not been able to connect via telephone and would send an update by email. "I don't think it will make a big difference, but people may feel better if they know that Rwanda is taking measures," Kate said.
Many visitors come to Rwanda to see the endangered mountain gorillas, but tour guides said the industry had been badly hit by fears of Ebola, even though there have been no cases in east Africa. "There is no Ebola in Rwanda, but people believe that Africa is one block, so they fear to come," said Osborn Schedruch, who heads the tourism company Rwanda Eco-Tours.
Visitors who have been to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone within the last 21 days are barred from entry to Rwanda, which is screening all arriving travellers for Ebola. Rwandan citizens who have travelled to the three west African countries are placed under quarantine on arrival. The deadliest-ever outbreak of Ebola has claimed more than 4,500 lives in west Africa, and experts warn the rate of infections could reach 10,000 a week by early December. There have been isolated Ebola cases of health workers in the United States and Spain, who caught the virus from those infected in west Africa.