RHA announces substantial progress in the removal of asbestos from public and private buildings

By Esther Muhozi
On 24 February 2024 at 05:52

Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA) has announced substantial progress in the removal of asbestos from both public and private buildings.

To date, over 84% of asbestos-containing sheets and ceilings have been successfully eliminated. The comprehensive initiative to eradicate asbestos sheets and ceilings commenced in 2011, covering existing buildings totaling slightly over 1.692 million square meters across the country. Presently, the remaining task involves the removal of 300 thousand square meters.

Kabgayi Hospital, established in 1937 and initially covered by 6300 square meters of asbestos, has seen 61% of this hazardous material removed. The remaining portion is anticipated to be eliminated during the renovation work scheduled for 2024.

Dr. Jean Baptiste Muvunyi, the Director General of Kabgayi Hospital, highlighted the severe health risks associated with asbestos, including cancers such as ’Asbestosis’ and ’Mesothelioma,’ affecting various organs, particularly the lungs.

Dr. Muvunyi emphasized, "The removal of asbestos roofing holds significant importance for public health, given the absence of vaccines for these diseases. Eliminating this unhealthy roofing serves as the only preventive measure, and it also serves as a warning for those yet to address the issue promptly."

At the Ruyenzi Health Center in Nyanza District, buildings constructed in 1975 with asbestos roofing sheets totaling 1107 square meters were removed in August 2023. Sister Marie Francine Kanyange, the center’s director, expressed relief about the improved health conditions for both staff and patients after the asbestos removal.

Similarly, Eric Nshuti, the Director of Kirwa Health Center in Ngoma District, emphasized the government’s support in removing 1132 square meters of asbestos roofing. He stated, "The government assisted us in replacing the asbestos with tiles to ensure a healthy environment for our workers and neighbors."

Officials across various health centers reported that the removal of asbestos not only enhanced the appearance of buildings but also significantly reduced the risk of lung cancer.

Statistics indicate substantial progress in asbestos removal across different districts, with the Eastern Province leading at 92.7%, followed by the City of Kigali at 92.5%, the Northern Province at 84.9%, the Western Province at 75.1%, and the Southern province at 73.6%.

Mathias Ntakirutimana, the coordinator of the Asbestos Removal Project at the Rwanda Housing Authority expresses confidence that the remaining work, primarily focused on government hospitals and other buildings, will be finalized in the near future.

Ntakirutimana added, "More than 900 companies nationwide are trained to professionally handle asbestos removal, ensuring minimal impact on human health."

Residents have also attested to the positive changes following asbestos removal. Sindibona Jean Marie from Musanze District shared her experience, mentioning that after removing asbestos roofing, the value of her house increased from Rwf28 million to Rwf60 million.

Regarding asbestos disposal, Ntakirutimana explained that designated pits, ranging from 60 x 20 meters to 20x30 meters with a depth of six meters, have been prepared across the country. Once filled, these pits contribute to a healthier environment by promoting the growth of trees and preventing asbestos dust from rising.

However, residents are cautioned against approaching active pits due to potential health hazards from inhaling dust.

The University of Rwanda's Huye campus continues its commitment to removing asbestos roofing.
With only a few instances of asbestos remaining, concerted efforts are being made for its complete removal.
Dr. Kaneza Deogratias, Director General of Ruli Hospital, highlights the health benefits of asbestos removal, including the safe collection and use of rainwater.
Dr. Muvunyi Jean Baptiste, the Director General of Kabgayi Hospital.
With the construction of new facilities, asbestos removal is underway.
The Kivumu Health Center in Muhanga District, once roofed with asbestos, has undergone a transformative facelift.
The removal of asbestos has noticeably improved the appearance of buildings.
By the end of 2024, Kabgayi will have eliminated all asbestos-containing buildings.
Old structures are being demolished as part of the hospital's renovation projects.
Renovations are underway to ensure the safety of students pursuing their education.
Mathias Ntakirutimana, the coordinator of the Asbestos Removal Project at the Rwanda Housing Authority.