Association of Medical Doctors of ASIA, founded in 1984, Consultative Status with UN ECOSOC since 1995








2018 School Health Checkup Program in Rwanda

Publication date:2018-12-11
By Chiaki Hashimoto (AMDA Project Officer)

After more than two decades from the civil strife and genocide in 1994, AMDA resumed its activities in Rwanda in 2015 by engaging itself in the fields of medical manpower building and school health assistance.

Following last year’s effort, in September 2018 we returned to Rwanda once again to conduct a school health checkup as part of Okayama Prefectural Government’s International Contribution Project for Local-to-Local Technical Transfer.

This year, the project was organized accompanying three doctors and a team of medical researchers from Japan. The participating doctors were, namely, Dr. Takashi Yorifuji (pediatrician, Okayama Medical School), Dr. Kenji Urayama (pediatrician, Okayama Medical Center), Dr. Shoma Koga (general medicine, Naze Tokushukai Hospital) as well as Dr. Taro Yamamoto (public health specialist) with a couple of doctors and researchers from Institute of Tropical Medicine at Nagasaki University.

History of Rwanda and AMDA:

The very first project AMDA conducted in Rwanda dates back to April 1994 when the horrendous civil unrest broke out. The news shook the world in which 500,000 to 1 million people (out of a total population of 7.5 million) were victimized in the genocide. AMDA responded to this manmade crisis by deploying an international emergency medical team to one of the refugee camps. Jointly organized by the Catholic Church of Okayama and Caritas Okayama, the humanitarian effort resulted in engaging 46 medical personnel from Japan, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

In the midst of this project, AMDA had a miraculous encounter with Ms. Marie Louise Towari who later founded an NGO “Think About Education in Rwanda” in Japan. Like many other Rwandans who were seeking shelter at the camp, Ms. Towari was there as a refugee herself. However, after learning that she was a nurse trained in Japan, the team immediately asked her to work as an interpreter. When the war ended, Ms. Towari moved to Japan again to set up her own organization with the aim of uplifting children’s education in her own country. Ever since, both Ms. Towari and AMDA have collaborated on a number of occasions.

Rwandan refugees (1994)

Ms. Towari as an interpreter


2015 till Present:

In 2015, Ms. Towari proposed AMDA to partake in a school assistance effort at Complexe Scolaire Umuco Mwiza, a school run by her organization in Kigali. As a plan was underway to launch a school health checkup program, AMDA was commissioned to be part of it.

What prompted Ms. Towari to implement the health checkup was based on her experience in Japan where she gave birth to her fourth child. She was deeply impressed by the Japanese antenatal care system, especially the utilization of the so-called “mother-and-infant handbook” which helps both gynecologists and expectant mothers to closely monitor the conditions of infants and mothers alike before and after the delivery.

Setting it as the final aim to introduce this handbook-based referral system in Rwanda in the near future, as a first step Ms. Towari decided to launch a health check program for the children in her own school. By carrying out a health checkup on a regular basis, it enables the school to monitor the students’ growth while allowing the early detection and prevention of ailments.

One of the key figures in starting up this project was Dr. Akintije Simba Calliope, the director of Mibilizi Hospital in the western region. A year prior to the official launch of the project, Dr. Calliope had been in charge of children’s health check at the school. To deepen his knowledge in this field, he was given the opportunity to receive two-month training in Okayama, Japan, under the support of the said technical transfer program by Okayama Prefectural Government.

Dr. Calliope visited Japan in August 2015 to observe government institutions, medical facilities and local schools in Okayama to gain firsthand learning experience in the realm of school healthcare system.

Dr. Calliope receiving the handbook

Experiencing school lunch in Japan

Likewise, AMDA sent medical experts through the “Local-to-Local” program to Rwanda in 2016 and 2017 to launch a pilot program at Umuco Mwiza which helped propagate the importance of school healthcare. While holding a series of workshops for local educators, parents and health officials, the team of Japanese experts paid a visit to the ministry of health and the ministry of education to garner support toward the effort. As a result, the pilot program grew to three locations based on the inquiries from the Rwandan government.

From the 15th to the 24th of September this year, three Japanese doctors were sent to Rwanda from Japan. The team was accompanied by a Rwandan medical student who served as an interpreter, because hiring the student as an interpreter could also fulfill the “manpower-building” aspect of the program.

Meeting with the health minister

School health checkup (2016)


School health checkup (2017)

A child receiving an origami crane as a memento


Message from Dr. Akintije Simba Calliope:

“I have been immensely moved by my joining a new venture for the betterment of children’s wellbeing. I also feel humbled to take up challenges and am honored to play a role in building a better country. I must say this project really paves the way for our nation in introducing the “mother-and-infant health handbook” system to which Ms. Towari aims. I would like to share with people in the government sector how important it is to promulgate child-centered policies and work toward this noble aim by having policy makers, schools, teachers and parents to come forward in the whole process.”

    •  Primary Health Care & Promotion of Health Awareness (Promotion of Health)
    •  Rwanda
    •  2018
    •  GPSP