Medical staff warned on less focus on mental and reproductive healthcare

Thursday January 14 2021
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Ndera Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Rwanda's only specialized facility for mental health, is facing a shortage of medical doctors. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA


Rwandans are likely to experience a surge in cases of mental illness as well as reproductive health problems as the government directs energies and resources to the Covid-19 pandemic fight.

Health activists say the pandemic has diverted attention from other health issues despite the numbers of people who need care increasing.

Before the pandemic, Health Development Initiative (HDI), a local NGO that seeks to enhance public health, the hotline was receiving around 300 distress calls in a week.

Yet, during the pandemic the number of distress calls has shoot through the roof.

“Since April, the number has skyrocketed to 17,000 calls in a week, from mainly young girls, women and couples, seeking for sexual and reproductive health related services and informaion, and people who need access to basic medical services,” Dr Aflodis Kagaba, Executive Director of HDI said.

He argued that since hospitals and access to hospitals were also jeopardized at some point by some precautionary measures such as curfew, it is even more concerning.


Dr Kagaba said before the pandemic struck, Rwanda was already grappling with rising numbers of teenage pregnancies, thus increasing demand for sexual and reproductive health services, and also prenatal care services.

He said policymakers should be ready for amplified effects in addition to mental health and social problems.

“There were repercussions from access to health services that were interrupted together with economic disruptions in households that lead to mental health and social issues.

Having some sources of income reduced or completely cut out, and students spending months without going to school created some vulnerability spots in our society,” he said.

According to Jessica Nyirinkwaya, director of administration at La Croix du Sud Hospital in Kigali, the institution scaled down operations during the pandemic.