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U.S. Donations Strengthen Rwanda’s COVID-19 Response

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As a second wave of COVID-19 cases surged in Rwanda, the U.S. government contributed about $5 million toward the country’s pandemic response.

The funds donated in February and March helped procure masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment to keep Rwandan doctors, nurses and other front-line health workers safe.

U.S. funds also supported field epidemiology training programs — which help health officials track, contain and eliminate disease outbreaks — laboratory diagnostic testing, electronic data management, and COVID-19 outreach efforts in communities and churches.

After a similar donation in November 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development also donated two Toyota Land Cruisers to help Rwandan authorities more quickly detect COVID-19 cases. The agency also is training Rwandan health care workers to use ventilators.

“One year ago, I said that I was confident that Rwanda and the United States would make it through the challenge of COVID-19,” U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda Peter Vrooman said in a video release. “And we have made it through a challenging year, together.”

Vrooman also noted that the U.S. has donated $2 billion to COVAX, the global plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines equitably, and pledged another $2 billion to the program.

The U.S. has offered about $17.4 million to Rwanda since the pandemic began. Previous donations included 100 ventilators that help critically ill COVID-19 patients breathe, hospital beds, sanitizer, and funds to enhance biosafety, central and district-level surveillance, and infection prevention efforts.

Officials announced the latest U.S. donations as Rwanda battled a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

What caused the second wave of infections is hard to pinpoint, Dr. Théodore Niyongabo, a professor of internal medicine at University Hospital Kamenge, told Rwandan newspaper Iwacu.

“The determinants of a wave vary from country to country,” Niyongabo said. “Are we in the presence of a new variant? Has there been a relaxation somewhere in the population with regard to barrier gestures? The hypotheses are legion.”

Rwanda also began the second phase of its national inoculation campaign in early April. The AstraZeneca vaccine will be used during the second phase. During the first phase, Rwandans were given AstraZeneca and Pfizer shots.

“Apart from the vaccines paid for by the government, we are also expecting over 200,000 from the COVAX facility,” Rwandan Health Minister Daniel Ngamije told local media.

Rwanda’s relatively low infection rates are widely attributed to medical innovations, cutting-edge technology and its government’s proactive response. A month after the virus was detected, the Rwanda National Police deployed remote-controlled drones to inform Kigali residents about it and enforce lockdown measures.

Rwanda also was the first African nation to impose a total lockdown that shut its borders.

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