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From Bitcoin To Bezos, The 18 Best Forbes Stories Of 2018

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From unearthing crypto-billionaires to exposing financial shenanigans, in chronological order, Forbes’ 18 greatest hits of 2018.


February 7

Forbes’ First List Of Cryptocurrency’s Richest: Meet The Secretive Freaks, Geeks And Visionaries Minting Billions From Bitcoin Mania

The craziest bubble ever has created billion-dollar fortunes. Meet the freaks, geeks and messianic visionaries who scored cryptocurrency riches.

When Forbes set out to find the richest people in crypto, we knew the technology’s decentralized nature—and the wild valuation swings—would make it a tall task. But with blockchain technology here to stay, it’s safe to say some of these names will be around for a long time to come. “We had to draw on a wide range of experience and skills, from our decades-long work valuing private companies to new tricks for analyzing digital wallets,” says Staff Writer Jeff Kauflin. “It was the most challenging reporting I’ve ever done.”

March 6

Richer Than Oprah: How The Nation’s Wealthiest African-American Conquered Tech And Wall Street

The American Dream is alive and well on Wall Street thanks to Robert Smith, the richest black person in America, who has figured out a way to reengineer both private equity and enterprise software—and used this secret playbook to build a $4.4 billion fortune.

“I spent two years trying to get Robert Smith to speak with me about his business,” Senior Editor Nathan Vardi says. “He was clearly the most interesting story in private equity, but he was reluctant to speak. He finally agreed to meet me in Miami on a Saturday in January with his partner, Brian Sheth. Once we finally got to talking, Robert just went on and on. It was one of my favorite interviews in 20 years as a reporter.”

April 3

Venture Catalysts: The 36 Women Secretly Breaking Up Silicon Valley’s Old Boys’ Club

Angered and frustrated by tech’s suffocating old boys’ club, a group of elite venture capitalists are channeling emotion into action. Their weapons—investing and entrepreneurship—provide a blueprint for how to transform any crusty industry from the inside out.

“When I first got a cryptic email from one of the founders of All Raise in December 2017, the group didn’t have a name, and no one knew who was involved outside the group, but I still got that tingling any reporter knows when they sense they’re on the track of a special story,” says Associate Editor Alex Konrad. Adds staff writer Biz Carson: “It wasn’t until we sat down with group and shadowed them that I realized both the depth and scale of their ambitions.”

April 19

The Last Days Of Banking Heir Matthew Mellon

Matthew Mellon’s death in Mexico raises many unanswered questions, including what will happen to the estimated $500 million of XRP digital currency he owned. “I am trying to live a responsible life,” he told Forbes earlier this year.

“When I spoke to banking heir Matthew Mellon in January 2018, it was clear that his large holding of the cryptocurrency XRP made him feel vindicated. He told me he was fighting his substance-abuse demons and was proud to have personally earned a fortune,” Vardi recalls. “Three months later, Mellon was dead. He died in Mexico, where he was experimenting with hallucinatory therapies that are illegal in the U.S. It was sad reporting on the days leading up to his death.” 

May 2

Mark Zuckerberg-Connected Charity At Risk Of Implosion

Quietly, without fanfare, an under-the-radar foundation in Silicon Valley has grown to become larger than household names like the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. But despite the outward appearance of success at the charity, which has focused on growth in assets above all else, inner turmoil abounds.

“The sad irony of this story is that the Silicon Valley Community Foundation was set up to support groups helping those in need in the Valley, and it ended up being an awful place to work for so many people,” says Assistant Managing Editor Kerry Dolan. In June, after substantiating claims of sexual and workplace harassment by the charity’s number two executive that helped lead to an “unhealthy workplace environment,” the foundation’s board announced that CEO Emmett Carson was out.

May 14

A Billion-Dollar Fortune From Timber And Fire

From humble beginnings traipsing through California’s vast forests with his dad to salvaging wood from forest fires, Red Emmerson has built a logging empire by being cheaper and more aggressive than his rivals.

“I spent days driving through public land that Sierra Pacific Industries had logged after a forest fire and couldn’t possibly have prepared for how apocalyptic these areas looked,” Staff Writer Chloe Sorvino says. “It was simply shocking.” 

June 12

Runaway Billionaire: Meet The CEO Whose Company Descended Into Fraud, Embezzlement and Betrayal

Bill Austin built a fortune from medical devices, then set out on a crusade to help the poor hear. But while he was off hanging with movie stars and rock gods, his company descended into a cesspool of fraud, embezzlement and betrayal. A cautionary tale of a second act to do good—gone woefully bad.

Staff Writer Michela Tindera went to Minneapolis to hear billionaire Bill Austin’s witness testimony against former executives he accused of stealing more than $20 million from his company. “There was hardly a dull moment during his days-long testimony,” Tindera says. “Austin knows how to captivate an audience.” And the story has kept evolving in the months since. Just a few days ago the former president of the company was sentenced to seven years in prison.

July 19

The Inside Story Of Papa John’s Toxic Culture

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter’s alleged behavior ranges from spying on his workers to sexually inappropriate conduct, which has resulted in at least two confidential settlements.

“The entire story started when I received a tip on Twitter—from someone unaffiliated with Papa John’s—who sent me a link to a 1999 lawsuit against John Schnatter. I figured it was worth a few calls to former employees. I heard enough during those conversations to keep reporting and ultimately reached out to more than 150 people,” Reporter Noah Kirsch says. “After we published, Schnatter resigned as chairman, and two other executives mentioned in the piece have since been pushed out. If nothing else, this story reveals the power of individuals who speak up.”

August 7

New Details About Wilbur Ross’ Business Point To Pattern Of Grifting

If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

“I’ve been writing about Wilbur Ross for about a year now, covering all sorts of financial shenanigans involving millions of dollars. But a lot of that stuff is hard to understand. I’m convinced this story caught people’s attention because of one simple detail: Former colleagues said the commerce secretary used to steal Sweet’N Low packets. Everyone knows a guy like that,” says Associate Editor Dan Alexander.

July 11

How 20-Year-Old Kylie Jenner Built A $900 Million Fortune In Less Than 3 Years

Not even 21, Kylie Jenner has built a $900 million cosmetics fortune, with virtually no employees, capital or expertise. This new model of extreme fame leverage is radically reshaping business, culture and politics.

“The Kylie Jenner story involved a lot of driving,” recalls Associate Editor Natalie Robehdemed. “Sixty miles to Oxnard, California, to peek around the laboratories where Kylie Cosmetics are produced. And 30 miles to Kris Jenner’s home for an interview with Kylie and Kris at her palatial white home.”

“Fittingly, I was driving and listening to the radio when I first heard Travis Scott’s (now multi-platinum) single “Sicko Mode,” in which he references the controversy caused by Jenner’s Forbes cover. I did not expect the story to create as much of a stir as it did—I thought folks would be interested by the structure of her barebones business, but the backlash it received from critics who disputed Jenner’s self-made status was fascinating. I think the story sparked a necessary conversation about wealth and status in America and shined a spotlight on the way social media is shaping our economy and society.”  

July 12

Meet The Unknown Immigrant Billionaire Betting Her Fortune To Take On Musk In Space

Eren Ozmen and her husband spent the last quarter a century carefully building Sierra Nevada from a tiny, 20-person defense firm into a multibillion-dollar aerospace concern. Now she’s betting their fortunes on the billionaire space race.

“Ozmen and her husband had never done an in-person interview before, but the minute we sat down for drinks the storytelling began. Ozmen worked as a night janitor and sold baklava to put herself through grad school and went on to build a multibillion dollar aerospace and defense company with husband Fatih,” says Staff Writer Lauren Debter. “Their sense of patriotism was what perhaps struck me the most and was the lone reason given for why they have spent three decades equipping the U.S. military and now are helping America reestablish its leadership in space.” 

July 18

An Unlikely Group Of Billionaires And Politicians Has Created The Most Unbelievable Tax Break Ever

The never-told story of how an unlikely group of billionaires and politicians quietly passed a law that revolutionizes investment in struggling regions—and offers one of the greatest tax-avoidance opportunities in American history.

“I ping-ponged from the heart of Silicon Valley, to the inner chambers of Republican and Democratic Senators, to long neglected neighbors in Charleston, South Carolina, and Newark, New Jersey,” says Senior Editor Steven Bertoni. “The response was as varied and far-flung as the research, drawing questions and curiosity from a diverse range of readers across regions and industries: wealth managers and lawyers, builders and fledging founders—all looking for ways to get into the Opportunity Zone action.” 

September 4

Bezos Unbound: Exclusive Interview With The Amazon Founder On What He Plans To Conquer Next

America’s most innovative—and feared—business leader is coming off a three-year run that has him the richest person of all time. Now he tells Forbes he’s only begun to grow. Corporate America, you’ve been warned.

Forbes’ chief content officer sat down with the richest man in the world to talk Amazon’s unprecedented ascent. Bezos’ innovative growth plan should give every CEO in every field pause: “The market size is unconstrained.”

September 18

How Roblox Is Training The Next Generation Of Gaming Entrepreneurs

Millions of tweens play video games on Roblox’s website. That’s not unusual for a social gaming unicorn. What is unusual: teaching kids the rudiments of coding and paying them like entrepreneurs.

“My favorite part of reporting this story was tagging along with a group of kids and their parents on a tour of Roblox HQ. To me, things didn’t look much different than the office of any other software development company—but for the kids, it was like touring Willy Wonka’s factory,” says Associate Editor Alex Knapp. 

September 26

Exclusive: WhatsApp Cofounder Brian Acton Gives The Inside Story On #DeleteFacebook And Why He Left $850 Million Behind

Facebook’s blockbuster $22 billion WhatsApp purchase instantly made Brian Acton one of the richest people in America. But as with his Instagram peers, his idealism clashed with Mark Zuckerberg’s financial juggernaut, leading to perhaps the most expensive moral stand in history. For the first time, Acton explains why he walked away from $850 million.

“Putting the story together was a stressful process,” says Staff Writer Parmy Olson. “We knew it was going to shine a negative light on the inner workings of Facebook and reveal some new information—for instance, that Facebook misled European regulators about its intentions to link user accounts. But the public reaction was incredible, from dozens of news articles to praise on social media for Brian Acton’s brutal honesty to a public rant from one of Facebook’s top executives. Since then, there have been more revelations about Facebook’s data practices that underscore why our interviewee quit when he did.”

October 2

How Trump Is Trying—And Failing—To Get Rich Off His Presidency

Donald Trump’s White House tenure—and his polarizing politics—has actually dented his net worth. But it’s not for a lack of trying to cash in.

“Ever since Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, the whole country has been wondering whether he was making money on the presidency or not, and this was the first story to really answer that question,” says Alexander. “We dug deep,” adds Associate Editor Chase Peterson-Withorn. “We interviewed nearly 200 of Trump’s colleagues, partners and industry observers since the election. Ultimately we came away with a fascinating—and counterintuitive—result.”

October 10

Exclusive: In-N-Out Billionaire Lynsi Snyder Opens Up About Her Troubled Past And The Burger Chain’s Future

At 36, billionaire heiress Lynsi Snyder has already struggled through her father’s tragic death, three failed marriages and a battle with alcohol and marijuana. The devout Christian eventually found stability running In-N-Out, her family’s quintessential West Coast burger chain, and now she’s determined to protect it at all costs.

“Lynsi Snyder rarely lets journalists into her world. I expected her to be a bit guarded. But she opened up almost immediately about what she’s gone through,” says Sorvino. “I was surprised when she started tearing up while speaking about her father’s legacy, but soon realized that’s where her strength lies as a leader—in sharing her vulnerability with others. It’s only made her a stronger president. In-N-Out’s cult following is all the better for it.” 

November 19

How A Mysterious Tech Billionaire Created Two Fortunes—And A Global Software Sweatshop

Two decades ago, Joe Liemandt became the youngest member of The Forbes 400 by building a software juggernaut. He’s quietly bigger than ever, with a far darker model.

“Joe Liemandt is the J.D. Salinger of software,” Senior Editor Nathan Vardi says. “He disappeared from public view after being a tech celebrity in the 1990s. But I discovered he had spent the last decade building a massive software empire, buying U.S. software companies and turning them into cash machines by replacing employees with closely monitored foreign contract workers paid by the hour,” says Vardi. “In reporting on Liemandt, I felt I was getting a glimpse into the future of skilled labor.”

Current Affairs

Sustainable Development In Africa Can Be Amplified By The Media

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck the world like a bolt of lightning exposing the contours of deep inequalities. Media reports have helped reveal the interwoven threads of inequality and health, with poorer people suffering a strikingly disproportionate share of the fallout from the virus, either through infection or loss of livelihoods.

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In 2018, the United Nations Secretary-General Mr António Guterres, launched an SDG Media Compact to leverage their resources to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. By disseminating facts, human stories and solutions, the Compact is a powerful driver for advocacy, action and accountability on the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo- UN

When 17-year-old high school student Darnella Fraizer filmed the last minutes of George Floyd’s life under the knee of police officer Derek Chauvin, she could not have imagined that her footage would reignite the explosive global question of racial inequality and the subsequent clamour for reforms in policing.

This act of filming validates the force of the media globally, we need a similar drive for urgent action in Africa. We need the continent’s media to help ensure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are achieved and the life of every African afforded the opportunity they deserve.

“Around the world, success in achieving the SDGs will ease global anxieties, provide a better life for women and men and build a firm foundation for stability and peace in all societies, everywhere,” said the UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a wave of demonstrations from Lebanon to Chile, from Iran to Liberia, was sweeping across countries. This was a clear sign that, for all our progress, something in our globalized society is broken.

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck the world like a bolt of lightning exposing the contours of deep inequalities. Media reports have helped reveal the interwoven threads of inequality and health, with poorer people suffering a strikingly disproportionate share of the fallout from the virus, either through infection or loss of livelihoods.

The global sweep of protests due to years of disenfranchisement and racism has made it clear that the world must change to offer equal treatment to all people.  

Media can do the same for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Achieving the SDGs, and so improving the lives of millions of Africans, depends heavily on increasing public awareness, and on the focused action and funding that such awareness ignites.

One major shortcoming of development progress is the lack of widespread knowledge about the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. We must look to the media to push the SDG discourse; what is reported and how it is reported helps shape policy and has implications for the millions of people whose lives are affected. Knowledge is power and if citizens are aware of the issues, they are empowered to help determine the national response.

Traditionally, development experts have failed to explain the relatively new concept of sustainable development to influencers such as educators, politicians, and the media. Doing so is key, so that easily understood narratives are developed to raise public support.

We are already a third of the way towards the 2030 Agenda deadline which 193 UN member states committed to. But at the current pace of change – notwithstanding the global pandemic – Africa is likely to miss out on the time-bound targets in key sectors – including health, education, employment, energy, infrastructure, and the environment. 

Improved public awareness of the SDGs themselves, and of the actions needed and the bodies responsible for such actions is essential. By stepping up to address and explain the global quest for social justice and equality which the SDGs represent, the media can help galvanise civil society, business, international bodies, regional organizations, and individuals.

Pressure from an informed public, pushes policymakers into action, offering hope to millions of poor people.

Development is never far from the media agenda in Africa, so the opportunity to build understanding of sustainability is there. Sustainable development experts must explain why the SDGs are important, and why ‘business as usual’ in development is no longer viable in the face of increasing populations and climate change. Then, news outlets, who would then be able to develop compelling narratives to make the concept understandable by all can help raise the SDG profile, thereby raising public support.

We must “flip the orthodoxy”.

What is reported, how it is reported, and on what channels helps in shaping policy and has implications for the millions of people whose lives are affected.

To this end, the media must be brought into the conversation and be made to understand the role they can play towards the greater good.

The SDGs pledge that “no one will be left behind” and to “endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.” In practice, this means taking explicit action to end extreme poverty, curb inequalities, confront discrimination and fast-track progress for the furthest behind.

The media can shine a spotlight on those left behind, for example by using COVID-19 to examine the wider issue of universal health coverage, the subject of SDG 3.

It also plays a critical role in holding governments to account for their Agenda 2030 commitments. Though these commitments demand that countries have clear reporting and accountability mechanisms, most nations still have no reliable data on their progress towards specific goals. This matters because countries can only unlock financing for the SDGs by disaggregating data to understand where resources are required. In Africa, where national commitments are rarely backed by adequate investment, this is particularly important.

Rapid mobile penetration in Africa offers unparalleled opportunities for content sharing on digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Though lack of affordable internet connections and poor connectivity remain a challenge, mobile technology is a powerful enabler across many sectors.

One in every six people on Earth lives in Africa; its problems are the world’s problems and solving them is the world’s responsibility. If Africa fails to achieve Agenda 2030, the implications will be felt across the planet through conflict, migration, population growth and climate catastrophe.

The media in Africa is a stakeholder in the achievements of the SDGs. Let us support the media and enlist their help in the quest for economic, environmental, and social justice across the world.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. He has served in various parts of the world with UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, UNOPS, UN Peacekeeping and the Red Cross Movement. A decorated Special Forces veteran, he is an alumnus of Princeton University. Follow him on twitter-@sidchat1

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.​​​​​

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Current Affairs

From The Singing To The Shooting: ‘Will Never Forget For As Long As I live’

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Oupa Moloto poses in one of the classrooms at Morris Isaacson High School where the protests started; image by Motlabana Monnakgotla

Forty-four years ago on this day, bullets tore through a peaceful school protest in South Africa ending in bloody riots and an uprising that got the world’s attention. Two of the students from the time shudder as they reflect on that cold, dark morning in June.

Forty-four years ago on this day, ‘Soweto Uprising’, South Africa’s famed student protest, led to bullets, fire and tears and an iconic photograph the world came to associate with the country’s brutal apartheid regime.

On June 16, 1976, a day etched in blood in South African history, 13-year-old school student, Hector Pieterson, was shot dead in the police firing that ensued, a moment captured for posterity by photographer Sam Nzima.

Even today, there are those who distinctly remember the coldness of that dark day, when all that the students protested was being taught in Afrikaans, a language they felt was oppressive.

Oupa Moloto, now 63, who was then a student at the Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto where it all started and who was thrown into prison after that horrific day, recalls it vividly. He thought it was going to be a peaceful protest, but it turned out to be a day filled with bullets, police dogs, burning tyres and angry students.  

Moloto had first spoken to FORBES AFRICA in 2016 when he had shared all the details. The memories of that day will never fade away.

“Finding ourselves singing in the streets as young people, challenging the government of the day, it was just excitement. The sadness that is going to remain with us and going to be indelible in our lives is when the police started shooting at young people, that is the one incident that one will never forget for as long as I live,” he tells FORBES AFRICA.

The protests started in Soweto and quickly moved to other townships in South Africa such as Alexandra and Tembisa. Towards the end of the week, the whole country was standing up against the government and everybody got involved; even adults and children in Bulwer, a small town in the KwaZulu-Natal region where Duduzile Dlamini-Ndubane was a student at Pholela High School.

Duduzile Dlamini-Ndubane in KwaZulu-Natal

She says they were told not to go to class by a group of male students on that Wednesday morning, and she was not too sure how they had received the information on the nationwide protest against teaching in the Afrikaans language.

“We made our way to the school grounds, we started singing, some students didn’t even know what was happening but nonetheless stayed with the group. We were then chased out of the school grounds and told to go back home. It was a noisy protest but no police came and there were no injuries,” remembers Dlamini-Ndubane.

Today, she is a professional nurse based in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa and Youth Day to her is a constant reminder that unity is key.

“When we unite behind a great cause, we change not only the current situation, but we make history. Youth need to unite and fight the right causes to change the world for the greater good,” she says.

Back in Soweto, Moloto says the struggle of today is an economic one for young people.

“Students are looking for economic freedom, hence #FeesMustFall; they want to get into the institute of learning without being in debt because they believe education can help them to be part of the economy of the country,” he says.

“When Hector died in 1976, he belonged to no party, he was just a student who died for all political affiliations of the time.”

However, going back to the Soweto Uprising, Moloto disagrees on how the commemoration of it has changed from then to now.

“In 1977, when we were commemorating, it was more of a unity, all political parties would gather at Regina Mundi to celebrate, today, the fight is no longer in a unified fashion. The municipalities and organizations have their own way of commemorating like AZAPO visits the Tsietsi Mashinini grave and the City of Johannesburg visits the Hector Pieterson Museum. That lack of unity is what concerns me. As long as we are not united when we commemorate, this day does not have an impact,” he says.

“When Hector died in 1976, he belonged to no party, he was just a student who died for all political affiliations of the time; we need to unify.”

After that eventful day, the liberation movements benefited because thousands of students joined political parties inside and outside of the country. June 16 was a catalyst in South Africa’s struggle for democracy, and scripted by the students in the nation’s history books.

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Heroes & Survivors

Why Palliative Care Is Also Pertinent In The Pandemic

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Eric Kabisa of the Rwanda Palliative Care & Hospice Organisation sets off with his team; image supplied

The real heroes are also palliative care providers who go out of their way for patients with chronic illnesses, like this Rwandan team of professionals that conducts home visits offering critical care to those afflicted even more during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s a Tuesday morning in mid-May, and the team from the Rwanda Palliative Care & Hospice Organisation (RPCHO) is preparing to visit the homes of terminally-ill patients in need of palliative or specialized medical care. The team, led by the organization’s Executive Secretary, Eric Kabisa, comprises a doctor, a nurse, a social worker and a psychologist.

For this team, their work tending to needy patients is more than just a job – it’s a deep calling.

This small team cares for over 70 patients with life-threatening illnesses; visiting them in their homes, providing medical consultation and nursing care as well as addressing some of their basic needs. They also offer counseling services to patients and care-givers.

FORBES AFRICA joins Kabisa’s team, all masked-up and ready with supplies, for the home visits. This team also includes nurse Peace Kyokunda.

The Covid-19 pandemic has no doubt disrupted the momentum of their work and though RPCHO was part of the essential services that had the green light to operate during the government-imposed lockdown in the country, Kabisa explains why the team had to temporarily stall the home visits.

“Since March 14, when the first Covid-19 case was discovered in Rwanda, we had to stop the home visits and would only do phone consultations. This is because we did not want to put our patients, most of who have very low immunity levels, at risk.”

For cases that needed urgent medical attention, Kabisa and his team would ensure an ambulance was dispatched to pick them up and rush them to hospital whatever time of day or night.

Technology was the only point of contact with the patients during the lockdown period as the team would offer counseling sessions and even guide care-givers via phone on how to handle the patients.

Sadly, the lockdown was not without casualties. Nurse Kyokunda narrates how they lost one of their patients during that period.

“One of our patients who suffered from cancer needed morphine to manage his severe pain but for two weeks, he could not access it… Even though we got him an ambulance to take him to hospital, it was too late. He died at the emergency ward,” she says, her voice laden with emotion.

As soon as the Rwandan government eased the lockdown restrictions, the palliative care team was ready to resume their duty-trips, exercising utmost precaution.

With supplies including cartons of milk and adult diapers, among other things, we set off to visit the first patient with them.

Soline Kabagwira lies silently on a mat spread out on the floor of her small living room. A combination of cervical cancer and HIV/Aids has left her scrawny and frail.

The house is quiet save for the birds chirping outside her small window and young children playing in the distance. Her own two children are up and about doing chores their mother would probably have been attending to had she been well.

On seeing Kabisa and Kyokunda, Kabagwira barely manages a faint smile and can hardly move. She welcomes us but does not allow us to take any pictures.

We are the first group of people to visit her since the lockdown.

“This pandemic robbed me of something precious; people’s company. Before, people would come to see me, talk to me and even pray for me. That would give me hope, something to look forward to. But now, it’s quite lonely, no one comes by anymore,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

Besides the loneliness, her days are filled with thoughts of what would happen to her children after her time.

“Who will take care of them when I’m gone?” she asks, shedding silent tears.

Kabisa and Kyokunda empathize with Kabagwira and take time to counsel her. They speak words of reassurance and comfort while exuding utmost professionalism. By the time we leave, Kabagwira is calm and gently falling asleep. We leave, but with an assurance of another visit soon. (Unfortunately, FORBES AFRICA learned that Kabagwira breathed her last on June 5.)

On our trip that day in May with RPCHO, we also meet Antoinette Bayambaze, another patient suffering from cervical cancer. Since the start of the lockdown in Rwanda, her condition has been moving from bad to worse. She is unable to speak but her daughter Angeline Nyirasabimana graciously agrees to share her experience from a care-giver’s perspective.

With a family of her own to take care of, Nyirasabimana has had to find a way to juggle between being a wife, mother, businesswoman and care-giver to her terminally-ill mother. She had somewhat mastered the art of wearing each of these hats, but the Covid-19 pandemic threw her off balance.

“This period has been particularly difficult for us. With the lockdown measures, I could not go to see my mother who lives very far from me. The palliative care team also had to stop the home visits. My mother did not take our absence well as she did not understand much about the pandemic. Her condition quickly deteriorated,” she tells FORBES AFRICA.

Being far from her mother when she needed her most weighed Nyirasabimana down.

“It was tough helping my mother remotely. Taking care of a sick loved one demands physical presence. There are some situations that just cannot work with social distancing,” she says.

Apart from the distance, Nyirasabimana could not easily access pain medicine as well as supplies such as adult diapers crucial for her mother, which was a main cause for concern during the lockdown.

“It was tough helping my mother remotely. Taking care of a sick loved one demands physical presence. There are some situations that just cannot work with social distancing.”

The RPCHO does not work in isolation. In fact, the government considers it a crucial link in the palliative care chain.

Dr Francois Uwinkindi is the Director of the Cancer Diseases Unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Center. He works closely with Kabisa and his team to ensure patients with life-threatening diseases in the community get the care they need.

For many cancer patients, accessing the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence located in northern Rwanda for treatment and drugs was an uphill task during the lockdown period, forcing the government to come up with various solutions.

“Drugs that could only be found at the Butaro Cancer Center were now available at the Rwanda Cancer Center located at the Rwanda Military Hospital in Kanombe. The government would also provide transport services for patients who needed to go for treatment at the Butaro Cancer Center,” says Uwinkindi.

The Rwanda government also explored the option of using drones to deliver drugs to cancer patients in the rural areas, saving many lives in the process.

Post Covid-19, Uwinkindi is of the opinion that technology is the way to go. “Where necessary, we should exploit ‘telehealth’ and continue with consultations via phone or video calls. This greatly reduces costs and time,” he says.

All in all, palliative care teams around the world have had to find creative ways to work around the Covid-19 pandemic to provide crucial services to patients with chronic illnesses, recognizing that palliative care is a necessity, even during a flu pandemic.

– Tesi Kaven

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