Rwanda’s Future One Health Workforce Drives Transformational Change in the Country

Rwanda One Health Student Club Exhibits Promise as a Future One Health Workforce Ready to Address the Country’s Health Challenges

In 2012, the One Health Students’ Club (OHSC) of Rwanda was launched to bring together students and faculty from the University of Rwanda in various domains to work together through multidisciplinary collaboration to tackle health challenges in Rwanda.

Today, the OHSC is a team of students passionate about driving transformational changes in communities as far as health is concerned. One key activity that brings students from diverse disciplines together is the One Health demonstration site.

The University of Rwanda and its partners brought together students and faculties from the College of Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine and the College of Medicine and Health Sciences to demonstration site activities carried out in August 2016. With support from the One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) university network’s Rwanda office, and as part of the USAID One Health Workforce project, this activity was organized to drive transformational changes for continuous improvement of health and wellbeing of humans, animals and ecosystems through multidisciplinary research, training, and community service. The activity was held at the interface between wildlife and human activity around the Akagera National Park — a potential hotspot for health challenges. The purpose of the attachment in this area was to enable students to work with the communities around the park in order to come up with possible cost-effective interventions to existing challenges.

A mini-conference to share the results and outcomes of the demonstration site field attachment, was held on 4-5 October 2016 at the University of Rwanda-Nyarugenge Campus under the theme ‘One Health — Breaking silos between professionals for sustainable health.’ This mini-conference brought together students and staff from the University of Rwanda, including the Vice Chancellor, Professor Phillip Cotton, deans from various schools, the director of the USAID PREDICT project, One Health Workforce staff, and staff from REMA. Students came from various disciplines including wildlife management, veterinary medicine, mental health, nursing, environmental health, clinical medicine, community health, human nutrition and dietetics, biomedical laboratory sciences, and business and economics.

During the demonstration site field attachment, students were exposed to different situations in the community where they were taught to analyze risks of diseases and their transmission through a One Health approach by identifying the health challenges faced by humans, animals, and the environment.

University of Rwanda One Health Mini-Conference Poster Topics 
• Assessment of the Health challenges caused by Human, Animal and Environmental Interface in Akagera National Park
• Identification of Health Challenges at Rwinkwavu Hospital
• Assessment of One Health issues at Rwinkwavu Hospital
• Assessment of One Health issues met by farmers in Kageyo Village-Kayonza District
• Rabies awareness and Vaccination Campaign in Ndego sector-Kayonza District

During the field attachment, students and faculty visited several sites, including cattle farmers in Kageyo Village, Rwinkwavu Hospital, Ndego sector for rabies vaccination, and a rice field in Mbarara sector, as well as other locations in the Akagera National Park located in the eastern province of Rwanda. Through interviews, group discussions, and personal observations, students documented the field results and their shared outcomes (suggestions based on possible cost effective interventions) to the public and stakeholders.

Students presented posters featuring their experiences at the field attachment.

In his remarks during the mini-conference, University of Rwanda Vice Chancellor, Professor Philip Cotton, mentioned that the University of Rwanda has a mandate for its programmes to carry out research with a focus on diseases that challenge animals, humans, and the environment.

He said his dream is to see the University of Rwanda producing professionals who will be able to work in multidisciplinary teams to address health challenges faced by the environment, humans, and animals.

His hope, he said, is that staff and students will fully embrace the One Health ideal at the University of Rwanda. “Students are also teachers and able to teach One Health so that communities live in a world free from hunger, diseases, and other health challenges. One Health practitioners are not only for research to publish and get a promotion or attend conferences, but to use the One Health concept to impact changes,” he said.

The mini-conference also featured presentations on proposals that won One Health Workforce project small grants.

The mini-conference posters demonstrated various outcomes from activities by students who participated in the demonstration site field attachment. The posters also highlighted interventions by the students, such as increasing community awareness about hygiene and sanitation through proper waste management, avoiding cattle-wildlife intergrazing systems, applying proper breeding systems and applying artificial insemination, increasing communication among communities and local leaders regarding diseases, timely reporting of cases of outbreaks, and the importance of not sharing a watering source with animals, among others.

The student’s participation in the field attachment gave them applied experiences in One Health before they join the workforce, while the mini-conference provided an opportunity for the students to synthesize their findings and present them in a professional arena. Through these activities, the students are showing great promise for the future One Health workforce in Rwanda.

About the Author

Mapendo Jules Mindje is an alumni and adviser for the University of Rwanda-One Health Students Club associated with the One Health Central and Eastern Africa network, a network supported by the USAID One Health Workforce project.

The One Health Central and Eastern Africa network’s Rwanda office trains the current and future One Health workforce to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.

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