A new in-depth article by U.S. News & World Report praises Partners In Health’s “pivotal” role in the transformation of Rwanda’s health care system, particularly in child cancer care, which the online news magazine highlights through former Wilms’ tumor patient Fabrice Irakoze, now a healthy 11-year-old.
The Sept. 5 article, “Rwanda’s Model: Progress, with More Work Ahead,” includes comments from several PIH and Rwandan health leaders and is part of an expansive special report on child cancer care around the world. The special report includes opinion pieces, a photo gallery, and vignettes from Hong Kong, Jordan, Lebanon and other locations, collectively titled, “Childhood Cancer: Seeking a Better Global Solution.” The package coincides with Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, recognized every September by cancer organizations around the world.
The Rwanda article features treatment at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence, part of the PIH-supported Butaro District Hospital campus in the country’s rural north. PIH has worked in Rwanda since 2005 and is known locally as Inshuti Mu Buzima. PIH, Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, and other partners opened the cancer center in 2012. The facility now sees nearly 2,000 patients per year, from across Rwanda and nearby countries.
Dr. Cyprien Shyirambere, director of oncology for PIH in Rwanda, told U.S. News that the center’s growth and success has defied expectations.
"When we started this cancer center people were saying that we would do harm, to treat cancer you need all the resources that are available in high-income countries," Shyirambere says in the article. "But a child like Fabrice shows it is possible to treat cancer in a country like Rwanda if you have a strong health system, if you have access to basic chemotherapy, a dedicated team of doctors and nurses and you have protocols and a committed government."
Fabrice Irakoze was 4 years old in 2013, when he developed a fever that wouldn’t go away. At a district hospital in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, he and his mother, Cecile Nzamwitakuze, were given what she thought was a deadly diagnosis: a kidney cancer known as Wilms’ tumor, or nephroblastoma.
But during six months of chemotherapy in Butaro, as PIH also supported the family with food packages, school fees and materials, and transportation costs, Fabrice steadily improved. He now has been cancer-free for six years, and returns to Butaro for annual checkups with Shyirambere.
U.S. News uses his story to show how strong health systems and comprehensive care can transform a country. Dr. Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer for PIH, told the online magazine that wealthy nations must increase commitments to system-wide improvements in the global south.
"These problems are long-term problems that we need to solve together with international solidarity that's lasting," Mukherjee says.