The formal health system in Rwanda that existed
before the recent war consisted of a network of hospitals and health centres.
Almost half of the country's health centres and dispensaries were run by
non-governmental organizations, such as the Catholic Church. The government
set regulations and helped provide staff for the centres.
During the fighting, many medical facilities were damaged or destroyed. Today, medicines are limited and trained medical staff are in short supply. Less than 50% of the population has access to health care facilities. However, hospitals and clinics are gradually being reopened.
Because of the war, many international relief organizations have worked in Rwanda to help people in resettlement camps, where sanitary conditions are poor and epidemics are a constant danger. Relief organizations also treat people who have been wounded or psychologically traumatized by outbreaks of ethnic violence. These organizations include UNICEF, CARE, the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children.
Rwandans experience many health risks and problems. Complications of pregnancy and childbirth affect many adult women, especially given the lack of hospitals where they may give birth in sanitary conditions. The Rwandan government, helped by international aid organizations, has a family planning program, introduced intended to reduce the number of births and improve the health of women.
The leading causes of death for both men and women are malaria, tuberculosis and intestinal diseases. Many people living in poverty suffer from malnutrition. Contaminated water and the lack of sanitation facilities also contribute to diseases such as dysentery, hepatitis and schistosomiasis (a disease caused by waterborne parasites).
In recent times, AIDS has become a major concern, especially in urban areas. About 5% of the Rwandan population suffers from AIDS and nearly 20% are affected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. The Rwandan government has set up AIDS control programs throughout the country.
Some Rwandans consult an umufumu (witch doctor) when they fall ill. The umufumu recommends herbal concoctions or sacred charms to treat the illness. In some cases, if the illness is thought to be caused by an evil spirit, the umufumu will perform a ritual to exorcise the evil spirit.