Chinese medical team’s free outreach program offers relief to Rwandans

A male nurse from the Chinese medical team treats a patient at the Gahanga health center on the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda, September 7, 2022. [Huang Wanqing, Xinhua]

Nancile Nyiraneza was nervous and in pain as she stood in line with a baby strapped to her back at the Gahanga health center on the outskirts of Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

The 40-year-old subsistence farmer was one of hundreds of Rwandan residents of Kicukiro district who benefited from a free three-day medical outreach program set up at the health center from Tuesday by the team Chinese medicine to help people with insufficient access to specialized treatment.

“I’ve had back pain for five years. Sometimes I treat it and there seems to be relief,” she said. “But it keeps coming back. It affects my farming activities because with this pain I can’t bend for long, so I came here for treatment.”

The mother-of-five said her untreated back problem led to muscle pain. She said she had been treated by a doctor there over the years, but the medication prescribed was not effective.

A team of specialist Chinese doctors based at Masaka Hospital in the capital Kigali and Kibungo Referral Hospital in Eastern Province have teamed up to provide free healthcare services to patients at the center of Gahanga’s health.

A male nurse from the Chinese medical team treats a patient at the Gahanga health center on the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda, September 7, 2022. [Huang Wanqing, Xinhua]

Despite the gloomy weather, patients started arriving at the health center for the intervention of the Chinese medical team as early as 5 a.m. local time. Doctors are expected to attend to at least 300 patients by the end of the three days.

After being examined, Nyiraneza was given medication that she hoped would cure her. She received information about the free treatment from the health advisers in her village.

As the seasonal planting season approaches, Nyiraneza has expressed concern that she will not be able to cultivate her garden and will have to spend on food.

“The disease is affecting my farming activities; as we speak, the planting season is approaching but I am afraid that I will not be able to work as I should,” she said. “Even in everyday household chores that require bending, it becomes a big challenge.”

“I thank the Chinese medical team for extending free treatment to Rwandans. I thank them for thinking of us. I am confident that we will recover. There are people with chronic diseases and this awareness program is a welcome gesture,” she said.

Théogène Ngendahayo, 48, another resident went to the medical dispensary with an eye defect.

He said that although he had suffered from an eye defect for a long time, he had not treated it because it required expensive specialist treatment.

“I came here after hearing it was free treatment,” Ngendahayo said. “I can’t read. When I try to read even a short text, my eyes turn red. We thank the Chinese doctors, God bless them.”

Guo Hao, the interpreter for the 22nd Chinese medical team, said 11 doctors and a nurse were involved to provide specialist services in surgery, maternity, stomatology, orthopedics, internal medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.

“Most patients come with chronic diseases. Patients we cannot treat from

A male nurse from the Chinese medical team treats a patient at the Gahanga health center on the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda, September 7, 2022. [Huang Wanqing, Xinhua]

here are referred to Masaka Hospital. Cases that cannot be treated at Masaka Hospital are referred to another hospital,” he said.

It is an annual awareness program. “Patients are grateful after the treatment. The program was halted due to COVID-19,” Guo said.

Jean Marie Vianney Barinzi, the head of the health center, said they receive between 100 and 150 patients a day.

Besides the free treatment, the Chinese medical team donated various essential internal medicines, including antihypertensives, hypoglycemics and some commonly used antibiotics, as well as anti-pandemic materials, including masks and hand sanitizers.

“The donation and the free treatment have a great impact, especially for our patients who seek treatment without medical insurance. These donations and free treatments contribute to improving the health of our community. It also helps residents save money and time,” Barinzi said. “The free medical outreach deepens the cooperation between Rwanda and China. We ask residents to take advantage of the free medical outreach to meet specialist doctors.”

Chen Zhihong, one of the Chinese doctors, said that because local residents live in relatively remote areas, it is very difficult to see a doctor.

“We came to the health center to provide everyone with great comfort. Some patients wait in line for several days to see a doctor, so when our Chinese doctors see these patients who come from far away, it does not matter what time we do overtime, we have to help them,” Chen said.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s medical aid to Rwanda, and foreign medical aid has been passed down from generation to generation.

Chen said there was no problem with Chinese doctors in terms of technology. “We need to improve the training of the Rwandan Kinyarwanda language in the future. It is conducive to communication between doctors and patients, and it is also conducive to better communication between doctors in the two countries.”

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