Learning from Success: How Rwanda Achieved the Millennium Development Goals for Health

Pamela Abbott* (Corresponding Author), Roger Sapsford, Agnes Binagwaho

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Although it is one of the poorest countries in the world, devastated by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and heavily aid-dependent, Rwanda has achieved most of its Millennium Development targets for health. This article discusses how it managed this, when many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa failed to achieve theirs, and assesses the sustainability of its solutions. Determined government policies involving investment in health and education and their energetic implementation with the support of development partners are identified as ultimately responsible for this success in improving the lives of ordinary Rwandans. The major mechanisms for implementation have been the provision of relatively local health centers, payment of health providers by results, setting up an affordable health insurance scheme (with support for those most in poverty) and the appointment of volunteer Community Health Workers who are unpaid but are encouraged and supported to form cooperatives for their own and their families’ support. The effectiveness of this level of community involvement suggests that the “Sustainable Development Goals” which replace the MDGs may also be attainable. A marked reduction in Official Development Assistance because of the success would be counterproductive, however, probably putting the cost of medical and preventative supplies beyond the reach of the average Rwandan citizen.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-116
Number of pages24
JournalWorld Development
Early online date28 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


  • Rwanda
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • millennium development goals
  • community health provision
  • official aid for health provision


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