Twenty Years After Genocide, Life Expectancy Doubles in Rwanda

New peer-reviewed analysis published by The Lancet

Contact: Jeff Marvin, Media Relations

BOSTON (April 4, 2014)—The 1994 genocide in Rwanda resulted in the deaths of up to one million people and the displacement of millions more. In the years that followed, Rwanda was the poorest country in the world, with the highest child mortality and lowest life expectancy at birth anywhere. Less than one in four children were fully vaccinated. Many health workers had either been killed or fled the country, and health facilities across the country had been destroyed.

Twenty years later, Rwanda is likely to be the first country in Africa to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for health set by the United Nations. Child mortality has fallen by more than two thirds since 2000, and vaccination rates for many diseases are now higher than those registered in the United States.

On Friday, ahead of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, The Lancet publishes a peer-reviewed study on Rwanda’s progress in dramatically improving health outcomes between 1994 and 2014. Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda’s Minister of Health, and Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health and a professor at Harvard Medical School—along with an international team of public health experts—present data from the World Health Organization, the United Nations, the World Bank to show that life expectancy has doubled since 1995.

“In the last decade, death rates from AIDS and tuberculosis have dropped more steeply in Rwanda than just about anywhere, ever. There are important lessons to be learned,” said Dr. Farmer. “In the 30 years that I’ve been involved in the provision of health care services to the poor and marginalized, I can think of no more dramatic example of a turnaround than that achieved in Rwanda.”

In an editorial accompanying the new article, the editors of The Lancet write, “Two decades ago, Rwanda lay in ruins. The scars of the massacre seemed too deep to heal for some observers at the time. But, in what has been described as the Rwanda miracle, the country turned its situation around.”


Available for Comment:
The Honorable Minister Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwandan Ministry of Health; Dr. Paul Farmer, co-founder and chief strategist, Partners In Health; Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, director of HIV services, Rwandan Ministry of Health; and Dr. Peter Drobac, executive director, Partners In Health Rwanda.

Please send donations to: Partners In Health, PO Box 996, Frederick, MD 21705-9942