Josephine Uwamahoro, 30, was overwhelmed with joy. Not only had she just given birth to her third child, but she had done so in a new state-of-the-art maternity ward at the Kirehe Health Center in eastern Rwanda.

“This is the first time I have given birth in such a comfortable and beautiful maternity ward. The beds in the old maternity were bad … and so many people were in such a little space. I am excited to be among the pioneers in this ward,” she said.

The new maternity ward officially opened July 4, the same day Rwanda celebrated its 20th Liberation Day, when Rwandans gather to remember the end of the 1994 Genocide, which claimed more than 1 million lives. Liberation Day marks the end of the annual genocide commemoration period, the somber 100 days during which memorials and events take place throughout the country.

The Kirehe Health Center, a Ministry of Health facility receiving support from Partners In Health, is one of 16 health centers in the district that serve the primary health care needs of thousands of patients. The tiny facility is run by a small but dedicated nursing staff, and every day a seemingly endless number of patients can be found sitting in the shaded waiting areas that surround the health center.

We help around seven women deliver every day, and sometimes we get over 200 women in a month.

Most health centers in Rwanda have only two or three beds dedicated to deliveries, and they are often in a small, crowded ward. In Kirehe, the new maternity ward boosts the number of beds for expectant mothers from five to 16, says Dr. Evrard Nahimana, the PIH clinical director in Kirehe District. The larger ward also affords patients more privacy and allows staff to implement better measures for infection control. Additionally, it features multiple delivery rooms and has designated spaces for family planning consultations, postnatal care, and additional services.

“We help around seven women deliver every day, and sometimes we get over 200 women in a month. Now, we can accommodate more pregnant women, and get midwives to provide the best health care to women giving birth,” said Grace Dusabe, head nurse of the maternity ward.

Protais Murayire, mayor of Kirehe, who officially opened the new maternity wing, lauded the efforts of PIH’s Rwandan sister organization for setting up a top-notch facility and implored community members to take advantage of the expanded services.

PIH Rwanda’s Deputy Executive Director Antoinette Habinshuti added, “We can’t say we are liberated if we still have women who don’t have a safe and good facility to deliver babies in. Having the new modern maternity ward is an example of liberation.”