Bill Clinton: My wish: Rebuilding Rwanda (2)
And the test is: one, will it do the job?
Will it provide high quality care? And two, will it do it at a price that will enable the country to sustain a health care system without foreign donors after five to 10 years? Because the longer I deal with these problems, the more convinced I am that we have to -- whether it's economics, health, education, whatever -- we have to build systems. And the absence of systems that function break the connection which got you all in this seat tonight. You think about whatever your life has been, however many obstacles you have faced in your life, at critical junctures you always knew there was a predictable connection between the effort you exerted and the result you achieved. In a world with no systems, with chaos, everything becomes a guerilla struggle, and this predictability is not there. And it becomes almost impossible to save lives, educate kids, develop economies, whatever. The person, in my view, who has done the best job of this in the health care area, of building a system in a very poor area, is Dr. Paul Farmer, who, many of you know, has worked for now 20 years with his group, Partners in Health, primarily in Haiti where he started, but they've also worked in Russia, in Peru and other places around the world.
As poor as Haiti is, in the area where Farmer's clinic is active -- and they serve a catchment area far greater than the medical professionals they have would indicate they could serve -- since 1988, they have not lost one person to tuberculosis, not one. And they've achieved a lot of other amazing health results. So when we decided to work in Rwanda on trying to dramatically increase the income of the country and fight the AIDS problem, we wanted to build a healthcare network, because it had been totally destroyed during the genocide in 1994, and the per capita income was still under a dollar a day. So I rang up, asked Paul Farmer if he would help. Because it seemed to me if we could prove there was a model in Haiti and a model in Rwanda that we could then take all over the country, number one, it would be a wonderful thing for a country that has suffered as much as any on Earth in the last 15 years, and number two, we would have something that could then be adapted to any other poor country anywhere in the world. And so we have set about doing that. Now, we started working together 18 months ago.
And we're working in an area called Southern Kayonza, which is one of the poorest areas in Rwanda, with a group that originally includes about 400,000 people. We're essentially implementing what Paul Farmer did in Haiti: he develops and trains paid community health workers who are able to identify health problems, ensure that people who have AIDS or TB are properly diagnosed and take their medicine regularly, who work on bringing about health education, clean water and sanitation, providing nutritional supplements and moving people up the chain of health care if they have problems of the severity that require it. The procedures that make this work have been perfected, as I said, by Paul Farmer and his team in their work in rural Haiti over the last 20 years. Recently we did an evaluation of the first 18 months of our efforts in Rwanda. And the results were so good that the Rwandan government has now agreed to adopt the model for the entire country, and has strongly supported and put the full resources of the government behind it. I'll tell you a little bit about our team because it's indicative of what we do.
We have about 500 people around the world working in our AIDS program, some of them for nothing -- just for transportation, room and board. And then we have others working in these other related programs. Our business plan in Rwanda was put together under the leadership of Diana Noble, who is an unusually gifted woman, but not unusual in the type of people who have been willing to do this kind of work. She was the youngest partner at Schroder Ventures in London in her 20s. She was CEO of a successful e-venture -- she started and built Reed Elsevier Ventures -- and at 45 she decided she wanted to do something different with her life. So she now works full-time on this for very little pay. She and her team of former business people have created a business plan that will enable us to scale this health system up for the whole country. And it would be worthy of the kind of private equity work she used to do when she was making a lot more money for it. When we came to this rural area, 45 percent of the children under the age of five had stunted growth due to malnutrition.
23 percent of them died before they reached the age of five. Mortality at birth was over two-and-a-half percent. Over 15 percent of the deaths among adults and children occurred because of intestinal parasites and diarrhea from dirty water and inadequate sanitation -- all entirely preventable and treatable. Over 13 percent of the deaths were from respiratory illnesses -- again, all preventable and treatable. And not a single soul in this area was being treated for AIDS or tuberculosis. Within the first 18 months, the following things happened: we went from zero to about 2,000 people being treated for AIDS.
That's 80 percent of the people who need treatment in this area. Listen to this: less than four-tenths of one percent of those being treated stopped taking their medicine or otherwise defaulted on treatment. That's lower than the figure in the United States. Less than three-tenths of one percent had to transfer to the more expensive second-line drugs. 400,000 pregnant women were brought into counseling and will give birth for the first time within an organized healthcare system. That's about 43 percent of all the pregnancies. About 40 percent of all the people -- I said 400,000. I meant 40,000. About 40 percent of all the people who need TB treatment are now getting it -- in just 18 months, up from zero when we started. 43 percent of the children in need of an infant feeding program to prevent malnutrition and early death are now getting the food supplements they need to stay alive and to grow. We've started the first malaria treatment programs they've ever had there.
Patients admitted to a hospital that was destroyed during the genocide that we have renovated along with four other clinics, complete with solar power generators, good lab technology. We now are treating 325 people a month, despite the fact that almost 100 percent of the AIDS patients are now treated at home. And the most important thing is because we've implemented Paul Farmer's model, using community health workers, we estimate that this system could be put into place for all of Rwanda for between five and six percent of GDP, and that the government could sustain that without depending on foreign aid after five or six years. And for those of you who understand healthcare economics you know that all wealthy countries spend between nine and 11 percent of GDP on health care, except for the United States, we spend 16 -- but that's a story for another day. (Laughter) We're now working with Partners in Health and the Ministry of Health in Rwanda and our Foundation folks to scale this system up.
We're also beginning to do this in Malawi and Lesotho. And we have similar projects in Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and Ethiopia with other partners trying to achieve the same thing: to save as many lives as quickly as we can, but to do it in a systematic way that can be implemented nationwide and then with a model that can be implemented in any country in the world. We need initial upfront investment to train doctors, nurses, health administration and community health workers throughout the country, to set up the information technology, the solar energy, the water and sanitation, the transportation infrastructure. But over a five- to 10-year period, we will take down the need for outside assistance and eventually it will be phased out. My wish is that TED assist us in our work and help us to build a high-quality rural health system in a poor country, Rwanda, that can be a model for Africa, and indeed, for any poor country anywhere in the world.
My belief is that this will help us to build a more integrated world with more partners and fewer terrorists, with more productive citizens and fewer haters, a place we'd all want our kids and our grandchildren to grow up in. It has been an honor for me, particularly, to work in Rwanda where we also have a major economic development project in partnership with Sir Tom Hunter, the Scottish philanthropist, where last year we, using the same thing with AIDS drugs, cut the cost of fertilizer and the interest rates on microcredit loans by 30 percent and achieved three- to four-hundred percent increases in crop yields with the farmers. These people have been through a lot and none of us, most of all me, helped them when they were on the verge of destroying each other.
We're undoing that now, and they are so over it and so into their future. We're doing this in an environmentally responsible way. I'm doing my best to convince them not to run the electric grid to the 35 percent of the people that have no access, but to do it with clean energy. To have responsible reforestation projects, the Rwandans, interestingly enough, have been quite good, Mr. Wilson, in preserving their topsoil. There's a couple of guys from southern farming families -- the first thing I did when I went out to this place was to get down on my hands and knees and dig in the dirt and see what they'd done with it. We have a chance here to prove that a country that almost slaughtered itself out of existence can practice reconciliation, reorganize itself, focus on tomorrow and provide comprehensive, quality health care with minimal outside help.
I am grateful for this prize, and I will use it to that end. We could use some more help to do this, but think of what it would mean if we could have a world-class health system in Rwanda -- in a country with a less-than-one-dollar-a-day-per-capita income, one that could save hundreds of millions of lives over the next decade if applied to every similarly situated country on Earth. It's worth a try and I believe it would succeed. Thank you and God bless you. (Applause)