Article: Jane Zhang, Video: Peter von Elling

KIGARAMA, BURUNDI — In three short years, nurse Benigne Nkunzimana helped engineer a turnaround of the health center here. Nestled in the mountainous, rural Ngozi province, the clinic used to close every day at 3:30 p.m., even when patients were still waiting to be served, because nurses weren’t allowed to work overtime. It constantly had a shortage of medications, including antibiotics, because it took at least a month to receive district authorization for each purchase. Nurses were paid so little that most had second or third jobs, working at private clinics, selling beers at bars or starting their own business. Many patients avoided the clinic. “There was no motivation,” recalled Nkunzimana. “There was no stability.”

Now, the clinic is independently run – and thriving. The building is clean, the pharmacy well stocked with medicine and the waiting room crowded but orderly. The staff keeps detailed records about services they provide everyday, including where the patients come from and what medications are disbursed. They review those data together at the end of each month, and discuss ways to attract more patients to the clinic and improve customer service.

Last summer, for example, when the data showed that women in the Mivo community didn’t come in for family planning services, the clinic bought radio ads, met with local leaders and even rented a house there for targeted marketing. They also worked with community leaders to encourage the Batwa, a minority population who traditionally rarely receive preventive care, to visit the clinic regularly.

Resource Information

Author/s: Jane Zhang
Countries: Burundi
Date of Publication: May 2013

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