Rwanda: using mobile cinema to help ward off cholera outbreak among refugee population

Published: 2 October 2015 10:00 CET

Matthew Rwahigi, Rwandan Red Cross

For months they have poured over the border into Rwanda, thousands of Burundi nationals, fleeing pre-election violence in their homeland. The latest count has pegged the number of refugees at more than 77,000, the majority of whom are currently living at Mahama camp in eastern Rwanda.

Such an influx drastically increases the risk of an outbreak of hygiene-related diseases, including cholera. To help mitigate an outbreak, volunteers with the Rwandan Red Cross recently spent five days in the camp, teaching refugees the importance of adopting good sanitation and hygiene practices. Using mobile cinema, they showed a short film on the causes, prevention, symptoms, and first aid treatment for cholera, reaching the entire camp population of 43,000 people.

Josiane Citegetse is a mother of four, a refugee, and one of the leaders who helps manage the camp. “Thanks to the relentless efforts of the Rwandan Red Cross, and others, to mobilize families towards maintaining sanitation in the camp, we have not had any outbreaks of disease that are caused by lack of hygiene,” Citegetse noted.

According to Mukeshimana Jean D’Ark, a nurse at Ngoma Hospital who participated in the awareness raising campaign as a health facilitator, there has been a remarkable increase in knowledge on cholera among the camp’s population.

“When we started, they knew a few things, like how to prevent cholera and the first aid that can be provided to a patient with diarrhoea. At the end of the five days, there was evident improvement as they all competed to answer questions I was asking,” said Mukeshimana.

The mobile cinema was also appreciated by most refugees for not only being a platform for learning crucial knowledge, but also for its psychological benefits of offering a light moment of entertainment that allows them to relax, if only for a few hours.

“Come back soon,” the children, youth, and adults bid as the Rwandan Red Cross session closed.

Since people began arriving from Burundi in March, the Rwandan Red Cross has been on the front lines, offering refugees much needed support including energy biscuits and household equipment, and helping to reunite separated families.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is supporting the Rwandan Red Cross through an Emergency Appeal of almost 550,000 Swiss francs to deliver assistance to 10,000 people, including host communities. The focus is on emergency heath (first aid, psychosocial support, and violence prevention), water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, shelter and settlements, food security, nutrition and livelihoods, with a component of disaster preparedness and risk reduction.