Photograph — ISG

Rwanda’s capital, Kigali has been nominated among the finalists for the first edition of the Wellbeing City Award, an award that recognizes cities placing wellbeing at the centre of urban design, planning, and policies. Being the only African city among the last 16, it was nominated in the public health category.

Kigali’s nomination is largely attributed to the car-free day initiative. The city dedicates the first and third Sundays of the month as car-free days, during which a number of roads are closed to allow residents to engage in physical exercise from 7 am to 10 am. People are encouraged to walk, run or ride bicycles among other activities, with health checkups for different health complications.

“In November 2018 there was a call for submission of wellbeing initiatives that cities were implementing. The city of Kigali submitted the Kigali Car Free Day initiative in the category of public health,” Advisor to the Mayor of Kigali, Bruno Rangira said.

Residents of Kigali City during car-free day. Photo Credit: Nadege Imbabazi

Launched in September 2018, the Wellbeing City Award is the world’s first global competition recognizing city-led action on urban wellbeing. More than 100 cities from 27 countries and six continents were considered for the award. Only 16 cities made it to the final list which has four categories of awards.

One overall 2019 Wellbeing City laureate will be announced in April, as well as a winner in each of the four categories.

Kigali will be competing with Gothenburg (Sweden), Los Angeles (USA), and Vancouver (Canada) in the Public Health category. Other categories apart from public health include economy and opportunity, community, and sustainable environment.

Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, the Mayor of the city welcomed the nomination, referring to the wellbeing of the people in the city as a paramount issue.

“We believe that our city can’t develop without a healthy people. Therefore, initiatives like Kigali Car Free Day are venues for our people to have a healthy lifestyle. As the city administration we shall continue putting in place policies and conditions that promote the wellbeing of our people,” she added.

More so, Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame is known to be very proactive about the health of his people, with the president banning certain bleaching products from the country recently. Consequently, public health awareness in Rwanda is on the rise with more citizens establishing health initiatives and more knowledge on health and well-being circulating the country.

Rwanda is Africa’s healthcare leader

In recent years, Rwanda has experienced sustained and dramatic improvements in all areas of healthcare. The nation has made significant strides to enhance healthcare delivery to its population of 12 million people.

It operates near-universal access to healthcare through the compulsory Community-Based Health Insurance (CBHI) scheme, which covers as much as 90 percent of the population – the highest in Africa. Also, 90 percent of people with HIV are on a drug regime, while 93 percent of children are vaccinated against common communicable diseases.

To make healthcare more accessible, the East African nation has deployed community health workers (CHWs) to the country’s 15,000 villages. These local practitioners serve as the gatekeepers to a system that has reduced waiting times and financial burdens by treating patients directly, and often at their homes.

In just over two decades, Rwanda has successfully reduced the burden of disease on its people and economy with these measures. As a result, healthcare coverage in Rwanda is high by global standards — all the more remarkable for a country that suffered the horrors of genocide a generation ago.

By any standard, the healthcare achievements of the current Rwandan government are astonishing. Being one of the few developing countries in the world that have successfully achieved universal healthcare, the nation is most certainly an example for fellow African countries.

The Award was developed by NewCities, a global non-profit organization that aims at shaping a better urban future as well as the most progressive and innovative ideas to drive positive changes in cities through events, research and urban innovation projects. The organisation works with leaders from business, government, academia, civil society, the media and the arts.

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