Stationed in Huye
With the addition of Christos Nicolaou from GSK house to the CHAI team, I am going to relocate to the city of Huye, formerly known as Butare. The Medical Procurement and Production Board (MPPD) has a government owned pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Huye. I will be working there for the rest of my time in Rwanda, although I will occasionally travel to Kigali.
The staff and I are putting the use of batch records in place for the products that the site manufactures. The four products that they make are: Glucose 0.9% 500 ml; Normal Saline 0.9% 500 ml; Lactated Ringers 500 ml and Oral Morphine 500 ml. A non-governmental organization provides the raw materials and packaging materials for the Morphine for both Rwanda and Uganda. We have instituted daily GEMBAs which are daily walkthroughs with the group leaders from of Production, Packaging and QC labs . Also every day, ten to fifteen minute meetings are called among the department heads to cover immediate topics and upcoming issues for the week.
The plant was built in 1983. Placed in the front entrance is a memorial of staff who were killed during the genocide. The plant currently has 29 full-time employees. Both the plant manager and QA manager are pharmacists, and the QA director is currently in Belgium completing his Ph.D. Temporary employees are used for packaging of the infusions bags. About half of the full-time employees take English classes during part of the work week as Rwanda is changing from a French speaking to an English speaking country. Starting in September, I will start offering free conversation English classes for all the employees. The classes will last for about two hours every other Saturday.
All the teachers in Rwanda are now required to teach 100% in English, although that is not their primary language. Janvier is a secondary school teacher who we met here in Huye. He teaches Economics. He said that it is difficult to teach in English but now all the textbooks are in English and it is becoming easier. We discussed the high unemployment rate here in Rwanda and why we can’t get Mangos in Huye. Mangos sell for a much higher price in Kigali.
The cost of living in Huye is much lower, which I measured by the cost of a Coca-cola soda. In Kigali a Coca-cola soda is 1000 to 800 Rwanda Frances (Rw Frns). In Huye, a Coca-cola is about 500 Rw Frns. This difference is reflected in everything except for gasoline prices, which are set by the government. There is a 18% value added tax added to the cost of all goods and services. However this is a cash society, so not everything can be taxed.
The value of the Rwandan Franc tends to fluctuate, so landlords often require that the rent be paid in units of $100 US dollars; the dollar holds its value whereas the Rwf has been decreasing in value. When we first arrived the exchange rate was 721 Rw Frs to one dollar. Currently it is 751 Rw Frs to one dollar.
I am apparently blessed by the gods of luck, because for a few weeks while I was here there was a sports event being held in Huye for the best high school teams of the East African countries. This is coincidentally the second year that it is being hosted in Rwanda, out of a fourteen year tradition.
There were throngs of students coming from all over east Africa to Huye. They were usually easily identifiable by the country colors that they wore. Also, the people from Kenya are often extremely tall. My daughter and I went to the initial soccer game at the opening ceremony. It was Rwanda versus Uganda, the current defending champion. Uganda won 1-0.
I spoke with a boy from Kenya who was here for the Rugby competition. He said that Kenya had won for a twelve year streak, and were only defeated last year. He expects that they will reclaim their title this year.
This past week was spent in the US and I noticed the great difference in wealth as soon as I walked into the Washington airport. Everything was huge and brightly lit and I could feel the air-conditioning. I could drink the water directly from the tap, which was strange. However, outside the landscape was desolate as no one was walking along the road or on the sidewalks near the hotel that we stayed at and it seemed surreal, like from a science fiction movie. I had to get readjusted to my old life, where I was accustomed to so many exorbitant luxuries.