Partners in Health founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, was conferred the Igihango National Order of Outstanding Friendship in a ceremony hosted by President Kagame, a year after he received Rwandan citizenship.
Dr. Farmer had been named a recipient of the award in 2017 along nine other friends of Rwanda, but he was unable to attend the ceremony at the time.
He had been honoured with the medal of ‘crusader for dignity’ for his work with the local health sector over the years.
Through the organization he co-founded, Partners in Health, known in Rwanda as Inshuti mu Buzima, Fr Farmer was instrumental in setting up the Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence and the University of Global Health Equity also in Butaro, among others.
In his address, he thanked Rwandans for treating him like family for the last 20 years and committed to continue being of service to Rwanda.
“Rwanda has been a beacon for me, from the hard efforts of the people who have built this nation for the last 25 years, to my colleagues who have worked with us to build medical services not just in Rubavu Kirehe and Burera Districts but elsewhere in this nation”.
He thanked President Kagamd and the First Lady Jeannette Kagame for being two of the greatest teachers in his life, saying in Kinyarwanda “Murakoze Cyane”.
President Kagame thanked him for the special work in Rwanda, especially in helping Rwanda achieve universal health coverage and making sure that all Rwandans, without exception, have access to high quality health services.
“You have known every Health Minister in this country and other workers in that sector, and there is no one who doesn’t talk about your exceptional service with them and to us as a country,” Kagame said.
The honour has been positively received by various figures.
“On behalf of Council Members of Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders And Decorations of Honour…we thank President Kagame for conferring Dr Paul Farmer the Order of Outstanding Friendship Igihango, he very much deserves,” says Dr. Pierre Damie Habumuremyi, the Chancellor.
Northern Province governor, JMV Gatabazi, said that Dr Paul Farmer is “honestly a true friend of Rwanda.”
“His heart is with us forever. We do much appreciate this action full of wisdom. Thanks very much your Excellency.”
“A true friend of Rwanda,” says Dr Emmanuel Havugimana, a Professor at the University of Rwanda. “I remember in 2010 when I was NUR Registrar receiving his wife in my office. She comes from Haiti. And Rwanda had offered scholarships to ten haitian students after the earthquake that almost destroyed Port-au-Prince.”
And according to Louse Gakuba, “No other deserves this than Dr. Farmer. He is a testament that one man can truly change the world.”
Dr Farmer is a medical anthropologist and physician with an MD and PhD from Harvard University, the Kolokotrones University Professor and the chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
He is a co-founder and chief strategist of Partners in Health (PIH), an international non-profit organization that since 1987 has provided direct health care services and undertaken research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty.
He is a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Additionally, Dr Farmer serves as the United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Community Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti.