President of Rwanda Impressed by Progress Made Towards Achieving Universal Healthcare

Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, has said that Rwanda has witnessed its all time low in maternal and child mortality rates. Community-based health insurance, good external partnerships and community health workers are responsible for decline in the numbers.

Rwanda has been increasing its network exponentially in terms of community health workers and volunteers in villages. This is evidently helping with the rural development as medical facilities are not reaching rural part of Rwanda more efficiently.

Kagame claims, close to 90% of Rwandans are currently enrolled in health insurance. Rwandan government subsidizes only one-third of the cost with contributions from beneficiaries taking care of the remaining two-thirds.

On the role technology played in the process, he said, “Integrating digital applications and new technologies into our health system has also made a difference, and we are now using drone aircraft to quickly deliver blood and medical supplies to rural hospitals.”

President emphasized on universal health coverage, says, it is possible for countries and all income levels. It is rather an opportunity and WHO (world health organization) is supporting this as well.

He added that, while advocating more funding to be channeled towards achieving UHC by 2030, he urged increased training and employment in the health workforce.

New Imaging Equipment with Upgraded Technology Will Change Medical Diagnosis

The radiologist, Ernest Wandera, Kakamega Level 5 hospital, said that the 64- slice new imaging technology will change medical diagnosis with its new capability to pick out several ailments.

This equipment help image the moving body part and captures it at once. Body parts like the heart are constantly moving and it gets very difficult to capture them at once and hence figuring out the problem becomes a difficult task altogether.

“It is just like different smartphones having varying features even though at the very basic definition, they are both phones,” says Mr Wandera, who sees an average 15 patients a day. He is one of the 800 radiologists selected for training in a Kenya- China medical equipment partnership.

Earlier, through the old technology it was required to push the dye through a needle, which was very risky. However, now this upgraded technology has made things a lot easier increasing the speed of operations and enabling better coverage while imaging. Apart from this, another addition is the contrast agency pump which can push dyes into patient’s blood vessels.

The machine is expected to be generated with UPS (uninterrupted power supply) unit and a standby generator.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment that has been installed over the past four years are used to scan through flesh, and widely used to detect tumors.

Sanofi Makes Kenya Hub for All Operations in East Africa

Pharmaceutical Company Sanofi have recently inaugurated their regional office in Nairobi to co-ordinate and dictate all its activities in Kenya and its neighboring countries of Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Sanofi has been very involved in East Africa’s medical sphere of late and has been a chief supplier of medical products and vaccines in the East African market.

“Establishing a regional office in Kenya is a strong vote of confidence by Sanofi on its investment intent for the region,” Peter Munyasi, general manager of Sanofi for East Africa said.

Sanofi’s efforts in Kenya have been focused on managing diabetes and thrombosis. The company oversaw the launch of a new drug for diabetes just last month. The drug-manufacturers however are only one of a number of French companies trying to grow their influence in the markets of East Africa.

Kim Ramoneda, the deputy head of mission charge d’affaire at the French embassy revealed that 100 companies have set-up local offices in Kenya that shows the amount of serious interest the market is attracting presently.

Ms. Ramoneda believes that this interest stems from the nation’s status a regional hub in East Africa and its potential to grow even further. This potential has led many multinational companies from developed western countries like the UK and the United States to flock to Kenya and other parts of the region.

Other firms that have established branches in Kenya of late include names like Bechtel and General Electric.

Tanzanian Government Makes New Raft of Investments in Healthcare

The National Assembly was informed of the allocation of 30bn/- for the purpose of the bettering health delivery services in the districts of Simiyu, Njombe, Mara and Katavi earlier this week. The funds have been released by the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children and will be one of their highest priorities this term.

Dr Faustine Ndugulile, the Deputy Minister said that these funds will be used to purchase ambulances and will be distributed in the hospitals of the vicinity to support a growing dmand for medical services and medical products.

While speaking about the investment Dr Ndugulile said that the goal of this activity was to uplift the districts of Itilima and Busega and have them the standards of other health facilities in Kenya. He also said that construction work is focused mainly on the Outpatient Department (OPD).

At least 1.2bn/- has been allocated to improve infrastructures in the districts,” he told the National Assembly. He further added that some 525 m/- was allocated for Ikindilo health centre infrastructure and 450 m/- for Nasa Health centre in Itilima and Busega respectively.

“We also allocated 240 m/- to improve infrastructure in eight dispensaries where each will get 30 m/-,” he said. He announced that during the Financial Year 2018/19, the government has allocated 1.5bn/- for the two districts to improve health infrastructures.

Tanzanian Medical Sector Continues to Prosper with Latest Round of Investment

A group of 38 interested investors including big names like Suma JKT, Africables and Reginald Mengi have earmarked the Tanzanian pharmaceutical sector for investments worth approximately 1 trillion in Medical trade.

Ms. Ummy Mwalimu, the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children has expressed her delight at the news and reserved special praise for President Magufuli for his efforts in attracting such volume of investment into the nation’s pharmaceutical sector.

There remains a huge demand for both the import and export of medicine and medical supplies in Tanzania today. The nations spends a sum of 1 trillion on the annual import of drugs and medical supplies. This new investment will be a major boost for the economy and will reduce drug prices substantially while creating a large number of job opportunities in the process.

Mr. Charles Mwijage, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment has said that good health will be of prime importance to the administration if they are to achieve the goals laid out in ‘Vision 2025’.

The minister also spoke about how the set-up of factories domestically will help the country relieve some of the pressure on bulk exports and reduce prices for the common citizen. . “We need a strong Tanzanian private sector, we therefore encourage our people to grab the opportunity… the government is working on regulatory reforms to eradicate existing challenges and already the one stop centre is in place,” said Mr Mwijage.

He also revealed that all pharmaceutical entities setting shop in the nation will also have to partner with think tanks for the betterment of the industry. He was quoted saying “Among things needed to put up a factory is technology, capital and market as for the market you already have 1.3trl/- as reference.

We have been informed here of tax exemption incentives of up to 100 per cent on machinery and other things,” he said. The Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Tanzania (PST), Mr Ramadhani Madabida said to procure drugs abroad is politically untenable, socially undesirable and economic unviable. Mr Madabida noted some of the challenges as market access, advising the government to consider the possibilities of paying for locally produced medicines in advance due to financial weakness of the industries.

Tanzania a Major Attraction for Medical Tourism after New Investments

Tanzania is set to become a major attraction for medical tourism amongst neighboring East African countries and abroad after a major announcement was made about the adoption of a cancer screening technology called Positron Emmision Tomography (PET Scan) was announced.

This technology is not available in other parts of the region and according to Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, patients in need of this tech can now avail it in Tanzania instead of being referred to India and other distant countries.

“The government has allocated 14.5bn/- during the coming financial year to purchase the equipment which will be installed at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute,” Ms Mwalimu announced at a media event.

She also rallied for the private sector to get more involved in the nation’s health sector and urged the administration to encourage the private sector by establishing a new incentive program.

Tanzania health sector has progressed incredibly over recent years with invasive procedures like heart surgeries and transplants being performed within the country at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI).

Airtel Tigo’s Newest Product to Boost Rwanda’s Medical Insurance

Airtel-Tigo Rwanda has joined hands with Radiant Insurance Company to bring a new digital insurance product to the public called Ingoboka Cash. This new service is expected to boost the current medical insurance services present in the nation. The product represents a major step in the goal to digitalize the insurance sector.

Ingoboka Cash has revealed two models, both developed for airtel money subscribers. These two plans are segmented based on usage. These variants are Ingoboka Cash y’ubuntu and Ingoboka Cash yishyuwe.

The product will only be eligible to those subscribed to Airtel money and these individuals will be provided with acess to Rwf 4000 on a daily basis to support their medical needs. But this will be based on the condition that the said customer has used a minimum amount worth Rwf 1000 in the previous month.

Phillip Amoateng, Airtel-Tigo Rwanda’s new Managing Director said in a statement that the product was designed specifically with the goal of digitalization of the insurance sector in Rwanda.

It is a commitment we have dedicated to the health and welfare of our customers, Amoateng noted adding that Ingoboka Cash is expected to further boost the uptake of insurance products in the country.

The executive secretary of Rwanda Insurers Association (ASSAR), Jean Pierre Majoro has the impact and the role of innovative products such as these and has credited them for the improved reach of the medical insurance sector.

Kibe Waringa, the Country Director highlighted the importance of the players in the sector to accept digital solutions as it has proved an influential tool in market penetration on a global scale.

“We therefore believe digitization of insurance products and services will rapidly deliver appropriate solutions for the low-income people to mitigate risks and improve livelihoods in Rwanda,” he said.

The partnership between Access to Finance Rwanda, Inclusivity Solutions, Airtel and Radiant Insurance is yet another solution designed to disrupt the insurance market by accelerating the insurance penetration in the country.

Tanzania Allocate Sh161.1 Billion to Healthcare

President John Magufuli has revealed that 170 health centres in Tanzania have had their facilities upgraded over the past few months. The process saw the government allocate a gargantuan amount upwards of Sh161.9 billion ($72 million) to fully complete.

On the completion of this improvement exercise, these health facilities will be fully equipped to perform emergency operations on pregnant women and children as the country continues to work towards first-class maternal and child care.

President Magufuli was quick to express his delight at this latest development at a function where he unveiled 181 vehicles worth an estimated Sh20.75 billion for the use of the Medical Stores Department (MSD). These vehicles will be used for the express purpose of transporting medical supplies throughout the country.

In addition to the up gradation of health facilities, the government has also invested heavily in the construction of 268 more health centres. Tanzania now has a grand total of 7,284 health facilities in the nation. Magufuli also reiterated his administration’s intent to continue in this vein and build more facilities, “This includes construction of regional hospitals in the new regions of Njombe, Geita, Katavi and Simiyu. We are also introducing and improving specialized services in various hospitals in the country,” he said.

Studies of US Lassa fever patient offer clues about immune response, viral persistence

Studies of US Lassa fever patient offer clues about immune response, viral persistence

When an American nurse working in West Africa became ill with Lassa fever and was evacuated to the U.S. for treatment in 2016, it provided a rare opportunity. With the consent of the patient, researchers were able to closely study, for the first time, how his immune system responded, including the persistence of Lassa virus in his semen after his recovery. An experimental drug was also used as part of his treatment.

A new report, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases (JID), describes the patient’s immune response, at the cellular level, to Lassa virus infection. A related report describing his treatment—and that of another Lassa fever patient treated in Germany, who also survived—appears in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID). Although findings from individual patients cannot be generalized to a broader population, the reports suggest areas of needed research for a neglected disease.

Discovered in 1969, Lassa fever affects an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 people each year in West Africa, where the infection is endemic and causes approximately 5,000 deaths annually. In mild cases, symptoms can include fever, weakness, and headache. Bleeding, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling, muscle pain, and shock may develop in severe cases. Last year, the World Health Organization identified Lassa virus as a top-priority emerging pathogen for research and development.

Lassa virus is primarily transmitted to people through exposure to infected rats or their droppings and urine. Contact with an infected person’s body fluids can also spread the virus. Sexual transmission has been reported, but the extent of viral persistence in the semen of male survivors over time is unknown.

After acquiring Lassa fever in Togo, the American nurse was treated in the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta by a clinical team from Emory with Lassa-specific laboratory assistance from the nearby Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He recovered and was discharged 25 days later. Several semen samples taken from the patient had detectable levels of Lassa virus RNA, including a sample 23 days after his discharge. During his recovery, he also developed inflammation of the epididymis, a coiled tube near the testicles that stores and carries sperm. The German patient, treated at Frankfurt University Hospital, had detectable Lassa RNA in his semen 64 days after he was discharged.

“There’s no capacity to monitor persistence of Lassa in the semen in resource-limited areas,” said Emory University’s Colleen S. Kraft, MD, who authored the CID report. “Much like with Ebola, we want to make sure we educate individuals who have recovered from Lassa to use safe sexual practices for a while.”

Over the course of the American nurse’s illness, researchers tracked his immune response, including the activity and function of virus-specific T-cells (immune cells important for fighting viral infections) in his body. The response was surprisingly robust and correlated closely with several symptoms and signs that developed late in his illness, even after Lassa virus could no longer be detected in his blood. This suggests that aspects of his own immune system may have actually caused some harm, said Anita K. McElroy, MD, PhD, author of the JID study, who is affiliated with CDC and Emory.
Future studies could lead to the development of therapies for Lassa fever that dampen certain harmful aspects of the body’s immune response, complementing antiviral drugs that target the virus itself. “First and foremost, we need to do this same type of research in more patients,” Dr. McElroy said. “You’ve got to know what’s wrong in the immune response before you can attempt to fix it.”

The U.S. and German patients’ treatment included oral favipiravir, an antiviral drug licensed to treat influenza in Japan that has also been studied as a possible treatment for Ebola. Both patients appeared to experience few serious side effects from the drug, but clinical trials are needed to determine if the drug is effective against Lassa fever, Dr. Kraft said. The patients were also treated with another antiviral, intravenous ribavirin, which is the current standard of care for Lassa patients. Ribavirin’s availability as an intravenous drug, however, is limited in West Africa, where the disease is most common.

In a related editorial commentary in JID, William A. Fischer II, MD, and David A. Wohl, MD, both of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, noted that Lassa fever remains underdiagnosed and understudied despite being a major cause of disease in West Africa. In commenting on the JID report, they wrote, “After a tragically prolonged pause in Lassa fever research, the work reported by these investigators is an important step in moving the science of this neglected virus into the 21st century.”