Rwanda: Health Care for Children

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It’s mid-morning at the Twubake Ejo Hazaza early childhood development center in Wimana village, in western Rwanda. Three-year-old Jeanne d’Arc sits on a woven straw mat as she reads out loud to her teacher. Surrounded by classmates, she points her finger to an image in the book and identifies its colors.

At first glance, this might not seem remarkable, but for Jeanne d’Arc, who was born blind, this is a triumphant moment.


children in classroom in Rwanda

Jeanne d’Arc, center, who was born blind, points out colors from a picture book with classmates at her school in Rwanda. She recently underwent two surgeries to partially restore her vision.

Photo by Jean Damascene Niyogakiza for CRS


 “It was a dark period for me,” her mother, Valentine, says. “I felt helpless, abandoned and I had no hope that my daughter would be able to see.”

Valentine tried her best to get her daughter treatment, but her family couldn’t afford it and she couldn’t find support elsewhere. As Jeanne d’Arc grew from an infant to toddler, her mother’s distress grew.

Then, in 2021, Catholic Relief Services launched a five-year Inclusive Nutrition and Early Childhood Development project, known locally as Gikuriro Kuri Bose, which improves maternal, infant and child nutrition and development. As part of the project, staff identify families at risk of health issues, with a specific focus on people living with disabilities.

mother holding child in Rwanda

Jeanne d’Arc and her mother, Valentine, are participants in the Inclusive Nutrition and Early Childhood Development project in Rwanda.  Photo by Jean Damascene Niyogakiza for CRS

Jeanne d’Arc was among one of 20 children enrolled. She was assigned to a trained community-based rehabilitation volunteer who makes initial home visits to assess needs.

As part of the economic strengthening component of the project, Valentine was encouraged to take part in the village’s savings group. Each week, parents come together to save money to support their families’ needs. The group also provides access to small loans.

Based on her vision troubles, Jeanne d’Arc was linked with the Multidisciplinary Assessment and Referral team, which is composed of a medical doctor, physical therapist, clinical psychologist, nurse, social worker and staff members from Rwanda’s National Council of Persons with Disabilities. After reviewing her case, the team referred Jeanne d’Arc to the Kibogora district hospital for ophthalmology care.

Upon further evaluations, Jeanne d’Arc was transferred to the Rwanda Charity Eye Hospital, where she successfully underwent surgery on each eye to help restore her vision. Valentine, who had long been unable to cover such medical costs, was able to pay for the surgeries using a $100 loan from her savings group.

After recovering, Jeanne d’Arc returned home no longer living in darkness.

Jeanne d’Arc soon began attending an early childhood development center, where she now learns and plays alongside other children. She also continues to receive regular visits from her community-based rehabilitation volunteer who offers counseling support to Jeanne d’Arc and her mother.

“Thanks to the Gikuriro Kuri Bose project, my daughter is able to see, study and she has hope for the future,” Valentine says. “Without a doubt, her future will be bright.”


The Inclusive Nutrition and Early Childhood Development, or Gikuriro Kuri Bose, project is a five-year USAID-funded project aimed at improving the health, functioning, nutritional status, and well-being of children under age 6 and women of reproductive age, strengthening the inclusion of children and adults with disabilities, and improving positive parenting and child development. The project is implemented by a consortium led by Catholic Relief Services.