Progress Continues on UGHE’s First Residential Campus

In December 2016, the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE) commenced construction on phase one of the Butaro Campus in northern Rwanda. Below, Director of Campus Development, Emmanuel Kamanzi, shares his update on a year of impressive progress in realizing phase one of UGHE’s first residential campus.

“Every single minute of delay means the loss of countless lives– lives of mothers in labor, of premature babies who need neonatal care, and of patients with cancer.”

Today, nearly eight years after Butaro District Hospital was built, these words–our construction creed–continue to echo across the minds of architects, engineers, masonry workers, surveyors, and countless others. Just as Partners In Health (PIH) introduced the state-of-the-art medical facility to bring quality healthcare to rural Rwanda, UGHE is training leaders who will emerge ready to develop health care services and systems that connect neglected communities with essential–and ultimately life-saving–attention.

Over the last twelve months we have worked side-by-side with our partners from the Government of Rwanda, MASS Design, Shepley Bulfinch, SKANSKA, Mazzetti +GBA, JML Engineering, Oak Consulting Group, ROKO Construction Ltd, MEW Consultants and a group of Rwandan engineers, to accelerate this progress. We have constructed six academic buildings, five housing clusters and three support buildings which will accommodate up to 200 students, faculty and administrators. In total, we have employed over 700 people including 200 women. Ninety-five percent of workers are Rwandese, many of which are from within the Burera District.

As we close out the calendar year, we celebrate several recent construction milestones including:

  • All housing clusters have received rooftops.
  • Classrooms, case study rooms, laboratories, and the library are being prepared for roofing.
  • We have advanced interior and exterior finishing works for all buildings.
  • Ground preparation for landscaping has begun and tree species that will be planted on the campus are being grown in a nursery.  
  • Partners in the Government of Rwanda have extended electricity to the campus site while clean water piping and fiber optic cable piping is underway.
  • Pavement of the Base-Butaro road has begun.

Similar to health care delivery practices that define the value of a program by the patient outcomes per every dollar spent, UGHE’s campus development team has adopted a “value engineering” principle that has allowed maximization of value for every dollar spent and has kept the project on track to welcome students in the fall of 2018. We have worked diligently to employ core management principles, practices and structures that maximize return on investment and enable us to meet the ultimate goal of completing the project under budget and on schedule without sacrificing quality. For plumbing, we have elected polypropylene random copolymer pipes (PPR Pipes) over copper pipes. In addition to being more cost-effective, PPR pipes are insulated, corrosion resistant, environmentally friendly and last 20 years longer than copper pipes. By introducing this small change, we have saved $170,000. The campus development team has applied similar practices for the design of building roofs and is undergoing research to incorporate more of this into the second and third fixes of construction.

The interests of the Butaro community remain a priority as we work to ensure the development of UGHE’s Butaro campus benefits all involved. In October of this year, we joined our government partners at the opening of Mulindi Model Village where 30 families who were relocated from the land where UGHE’s campus is being built received door keys for their brand new, fully-furnished homes. For many of the families, the new houses were the most modern homes they had lived in. As part of the Government of Rwanda’s “One Cow Per Family” program, each family also received a cow to improve their nutritional status and agricultural practices by providing milk and manure. Addressing social and economic issues through modest community improvement efforts will benefit both the wealth and health of Butaro.

Advancing campus construction will expand UGHE’s ability to serve as a regional center of excellence in health and implementation science for East Africa, but it will also grow Butaro from a small market town into a vibrant city. These investments will boost development in the region and pay social dividends for generations to come. Construction of Butaro District Hospital saw the addition of two ATM machines and the first petrol station in the community. Since construction began on UGHE’s campus we have witnessed similar growth. Private schools have purchased land in Butaro sector to expand their outreach, construction of a helicopter pad has been completed, and residential properties are being built by private businessmen and women to accommodate the increasing demand for rental housing in Butaro. From the model village to the green, terraced mountains and valleys around UGHE’s Butaro campus, we see communities thriving.

As the festive season nears, we remain especially grateful to those who share in our mission– our UGHE and PIH staff, and partners, supporters and global health advocates around the world. We look forward to a 2018 that sees the build out of an institution that will house generations of leaders and changemakers poised to eliminate barriers to accessing high quality health care.