I recently returned from an illuminating trip to Rwanda, where I visited drone company and Gavi partner Zipline, which is already helping Alice and her colleagues save lives by delivering blood to rural areas, and could do the same for other medical products in future. This innovative project is emblematic of Rwanda’s unique and successful approach to health that has seen huge progress for the country’s citizens over the past twenty years.
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Rwanda has emerged as a trailblazer in global health and development since the genocide of 1994. Its troubled past has made Rwanda’s rapid gains all the more remarkable. More than twenty years on, child mortality has been cut in half and basic immunisation coverage now stands at an exceptional 98%.
None of this is by accident. Rwanda’s deliberate, transformative approach has combined excellent leadership and community mobilisation not only to achieve this impressive vaccine success in a resource constrained setting, but to also pave the way for broader health gains.
This couldn’t have happened without immunisation champions like President Kagame and former health ministers, who understood what immunisation could do to protect children and build a strong economic foundation for their growing nation. This leadership led Rwanda not only to their high coverage, but also to be an early adopter for new and vital vaccines such as those preventing rotavirus diarrhoea, pneumococcal disease and cervical cancer.