Residents of Nkombo Island in Lake Kivu are decrying dilapidated roads and lack of transport facilities to reach medical services onshore.
Patients needing advanced medical attention from the highly populated island in Rusizi District are forced to sail one kilometre to reach the facing bank of the lake. From there, an ambulance rushes them to Gihundwe Hospital in Kamembe town.
The small island on Lake Kivu is one of the 18 sectors that make up Rusizi District, which has a population of close to 20,000 residents.
Residents say that the ambulances often get stuck on the muddy and dilapidated roads.
Just last week, an ambulance carrying a pregnant woman got stuck for hours in the mud.
Though the hospital officials said that the mother did not suffer any complications following the trip to the hospital, Francine Ntawigira, a resident of Nkombo sector told Rwanda Today that lack of reliable means of transport means residents rely on traditional, woven emergency stretchers locally known as Ingobyi that four people carry on their shoulders.
“Due to the long distance to the hospital in Kamembe, some mothers can lose their babies on the way. That is why we are request for better transportation,” said Ntawigira.
With only one main health centre and three health posts that offer basic medical services, people from farther inside the island must endure a two-hour trek to reach the centre near Busekanka harbour.
Jean de Dieu Tuyishime, the secretary executive of Nkombo sector, says that as the population on island keeps growing, the need for medical facilities will also grow.
Of course some cases need to be referred and transferred to Gihundwe Hospital, but the challenge remains how to get off the island.
District officials cite limited resources but have a promised a solution. “We plan to rehabilitate the two roads linking Gihundwe Hospital with the Lake Kivu shore by canalising waters and flattening the road temporarily,” said Ephrem Kayumba, the Mayor of Rusizi.