• Kigali is determined to promote healthy lifestyles among its population to reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases which account for millions of deaths in the globe annually.

    For the first time ever, Rwanda’s capital will hold a car-free day on Sunday (May 29). According to the announcement by the City of Kigali earlier in the week, no car will be allowed in the identified areas within the city. The route connecting the Car-Free Zone to city roundabout in the Central Business District through–Sopetrad–Kimihurura–Gishushu to Stade Amahoro, will be closed off, and motorists will be required to use alternative routes.

    The targeted routes will only be used by pedestrians and bicycle riders from 7 am to noon.

    “The move is aimed at encouraging mass sports and exercise along the affected route through introducing the much anticipated green transport and green city,” the City Mayor Monique Mukaruliza was quoted by the New Times.

    “In a bid to promote a healthy lifestyle for the residents of Kigali, the City authorities have introduced mass sports and exercises, to encourage people to walk, jog as well as ride bicycles. It is in this context that we have introduced a monthly car-free day, and this month it will happen on May 29.”

    Fighting Non-Communicable Diseases

    In a bid to fight Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among city dwellers, the City Council, in collaboration with Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), are promoting ‘Green Transport’ which involves jogging and riding bicycles.

    According to 2015 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) by RBC, NCDs are on the rise in the country. This is evident following an increase of obesity from 16 percent in 2011 to 21 percent in 2015.

    The World Health Organization also concur with RBC findings indicating that NCDs kills 38 million people around the globe annually. About three-quarters of these deaths occur in low and middle-income countries.

    The director-general of RBC, Dr Jeanine Condo, encourages people to engage in exercises and sports to “significantly” reduce the occurrence of non-communicable diseases.

    “Prevention is better than treatment. We are trying to see how we can cooperate with the City of Kigali, on a monthly basis to promote green transport. This will surely reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases among city residents and Rwandans in general at a significant rate,” Condo told the New Times.

    Sedentary life causing more deaths through hypertension

    Two weeks ago, the world observed World Hypertension Day on May 17. The day was set aside in 2005 to promote public awareness of hypertension and to encourage citizens of all countries to prevent and control the silent killer.

    What brings about hypertension?

    One of the major reasons that lead to the deadly NCD is a sedentary life where people spend more time seated or driving instead of engaging in more active undertakings. This inactiveness has left people vulnerable to diabetes, cardiac arrest, courtesy hypertension! - the modern epidemic.

    According to AstraZeneca, an organization working to ensure that it tackles the burden of hypertension and reducing cardiovascular-related deaths, “the prevalence of hypertension in Africa is the highest in the world, yet it is preventable, relatively easy to diagnose and treatable.”

    By encouraging people to take part in the car-free day event which they hope can be a monthly affair, RBC is confident that it will help people who hardly have time to exercise to be able to take part in the activity and lose some fats, consequently reducing the risks of acquiring non-communicable diseases.

    The NCDs week was launched on Monday and will go on until the car-free day on Sunday. During this time, voluntary medical check-up will be conducted in the car-free zone, in downtown Kigali, with the message that prevention is better than treatment.

    In future, all new roads will be constructed in a way that it caters for both pedestrians and bicycle riders, Mukaruliza said. The city mayor called on all Rwandans in and around Kigali to participate in the event.

    Kigali also hopes to establish a public park that will be used by joggers and people who want to engage in sports exercises as they continue to push for a green city.

    Image credit: Timothy Kisambira