For more than a decade, Richard Berman served as President of Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York, where he engaged in many international health, humanitarian, and educational initiatives. At present, Richard Berman serves as a Fulbright Specialist in the Republic of Rwanda. He assists the Director of the National University of Rwanda on education issues and works to tackle health issues with the country’s President and Minister of Health.

Following the end of the genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990s, the country recovered slowly, establishing a transitional government that lasted until 2003, when the current constitution was adopted. Since that time, the country has enjoyed stability and relative prosperity, with Transparency International ranking it as having low corruption levels. Its general economy and tourism sector have enjoyed sustained expansion, with Rwanda’s 3.3 percent growth rate from 2000 to 2010 giving it the largest Human Development Index percentage increase of any country. At the same time, Rwanda faces significant health issues among its population of 10.5 million. Infant mortality stands at 86 for every 1,000, according to internal 2005 Demographic and Health Survey statistics. Severe malnutrition among children under the age of five is at nearly 20 percent. UN Development Programme statistics from 2007 place Rwanda’s life expectancy at birth at 52.73, with 3 percent of its population living with HIV.

Mr. Berman finds it rewarding to participate in the sustained efforts of Rwanda’s Ministry of Health to fulfill the nation’s 2020 Vision. This involves improving quality of health care across the board and providing citizens with universal health insurance. The Ministry is currently engaged in deep reform programs that seek to address traditional health issues and those specific to HIV/AIDS. The NUR School of Public Health recently held a five-day international conference, examining ways of improving management competencies in treating multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Nearly 90 percent of tuberculosis patients in Rwanda are HIV positive, and any progress on this issue offers significant benefits to a large number of Rwandans. Two programs with the potential make a significant difference in Rwandan health care on a systemic level are The Joint Health Sector Group, which engages in sector planning and prioritization; and the Country Coordination Mechanism, a Global Fund facilitated program that involves local constituents in TB and Malaria treatment and care management.

About the Author: Richard Berman formerly served as President of Manhattanville College, where he created sustained connections between the university and international organizations.

 


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