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Lessons Learned from Rwanda: Innovative Strategies for Prevention and Containment of COVID-19

Naz Karim, MD MHA MPH, Ling Jing, BA, J. Austin Lee, MD, Ramu Kharel, MD, Derek Lubetkin, MD, Camille M. Clancy, PA-C MPH, Doris Uwamahoro, MD, Ernest Nahayo, MD, Joseph Biramahire, MD, Adam R. Aluisio, MD MSc DTM&H, and Vincent Ndebwanimana, MD


Rwanda has made significant advancements in medical and economic development over the last 20 years and has emerged as a leader in healthcare in the East African region. The COVID-19 pandemic, which reached Rwanda in March 2020, presented new and unique challenges for infectious disease control. The objective of this paper is to characterize Rwanda’s domestic response to the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and highlight effective strategies so that other countries, including high and middle-income countries, can learn from its innovative initiatives.

Government publications describing Rwanda’s healthcare capacity were first consulted to obtain the country’s baseline context. Next, official government and healthcare system communications, including case counts, prevention and screening protocols, treatment facility practices, and behavioral guidelines for the public, were read thoroughly to understand the course of the pandemic in Rwanda and the specific measures in the response.

As of 31 December 2020, Rwanda has recorded 8,383 cumulative COVID-19 cases, 6,542 recoveries, and 92 deaths since the first case on 14 March 2020. The Ministry of Health, Rwanda Biomedical Centre, and the Epidemic and Surveillance Response division have collaborated on preparative measures since the pandemic began in January 2020. The formation of a Joint Task Force in early March led to the Coronavirus National Preparedness and Response Plan, an extensive six-month plan that established a national incident management system and detailed four phases of a comprehensive national response. Notable strategies have included disseminating public information through drones, robots for screening and inpatient care, and official communications through social media platforms to combat misinformation and mobilize a cohesive response from the population.

Rwanda’s government and healthcare system has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with innovative interventions to prevent and contain the virus. Importantly, the response has utilized adaptive and innovative technology and robust risk communication and community engagement to deliver an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Link:Lessons Learned from Rwanda: Innovative Strategies for Prevention and Containment of COVID-19 (nih.gov)