Food is medicine

By Isabelle Kamariza

Even with access to the best doctors and medicines in the world, patients will not recover from illness without food. With tagline #FoodIsMedicine, Solid 'Africa is a non-profit organization with a mission to help vulnerable patients in public hospitals. Through five programs, the organization provides food, hygienic products and other services with the goal to accelerate patients’ recovery process, preserve dignity and promote equity.

Solid'Africa

Founded in Kigali in 2011, NGO Solid’Africa was created by Isabelle, Mama Zuzu and a dynamic team of young professionals to support Rwanda’s vulnerable patients in public hospitals. While health care is free in Rwanda, public hospitals do not provide food.  For in-patients whose homes and communities are located outside of the capital city, in-patients often experience food insecurity during their hospital stay, unsure of where their next meal will come from. Isabelle tells a story of a patient who carries a plate with him at all times of the day in the off chance that he finds food being distributed around the hospital. 

Safe, quality food is key for a patient’s recovery, providing the key nutrients needed to make a full recovery. Beyond nutrition, these meals also give patients dignity that comes with sharing good food cooked with compassion. With these two principles of dignity and compassion guiding their work, Solid’Africa supports vulnerable patients in the following five areas: 

Gemura (food for all) 

Through this program, Solid’ Africa serves a nutritious meal to 400 hospitalized patients in Kigali every day, catering to just under 50% of people in need of such support. The organisation is now working on establishing operations that will provide 3 meals a day for 1,000 patients. 

To support this effort, Solid’Africa has established two Solid’Farms as to control the food value chain and improve the quality of its meals. Growing 70% of the produce used in Gemura programs, Solid’Farms cultivate a range of fruits and vegetables, such as bean, sweet potato, corn, green plantains, cassava, leeks, spinach, eggplant, cabbages, beetroot, bananas, avocadoes, passion fruits, oranges and pineapples.

Isabella and Mama Zuzu also hope to expand their activities with the construction of an industrial kitchen that can help to scale up food preparation operations.   

Food

Kiza (medicine and diagnostics)

In Rwanda, public insurance only covers the cost of selected drugs and diagnostics. Lack of coverage for all medications and treatments impairs vulnerable patients’ access to medical care. To remove this barrier, Kiza provides financial support to vulnerable in-patients for prescribed drugs and diagnostics that fall outside public insurance’s remit.

Sukura (hygiene)

To promote hygiene and maintain dignity, Sakura provide a variety of hygiene products, such as soap, toilet paper, toothbrushes and sanitary pads to in-patients who cannot afford them. Additionally, Solid’Africa has installed water purification systems and clean water storage tanks in three public hospitals, producing 2,000 litres per day of safe filtered drinking water for the entire hospital population. 

Gombora (hospital bill)

In Rwanda’s health care system, the degree of a patient’s insurance coverage varies based on their socio-economic situation. Failure to correctly identify and categorise patients from a vulnerable socio-economic will impede their access to medical care. To promote equity in access to health services, Gombora assists patients in financing their hospital bills when they cannot afford it.

Menya (advocacy and awareness)

We built the first playroom in a Rwandan public hospital at Kigali Teaching Hospital. The initiative is known as Kina U Kire or Play While Healing. It aims at improving the hospital stay of children by offering a happy and safe space for them to play, build social connections and receive play therapy.

Solid’Africa is a home-grown solution delivering a secure food future for all.

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