A Need for Reciprocal Partnerships not Aid

A Need for Reciprocal Partnerships not Aid

IFGH Conference 2014 Partnerships Panorama

Key Correspondent: Jessica O’Dowd

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In Sudan, maternal mortality has been reduced by 86%, with neonatal and stillborn deaths reduced to nearly 50%. The childhood survival rate of cancer has increased to 50% in Tanzania. These were just some of the benefits cited from large institutional partnerships during this panorama session at the IFGH Conference in Dublin, November 5th. The gains for partners in the three African based institutions came through in the panel presentation strongly. However a clear sense of reciprocal exchange and benefits for the three Irish institutions was lacking. Need must be taken to ensure that these relationships grow as partnerships and do not follow an aid donor-recipient based model.

Tony Ryan from Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH),  Méabh Ni Bhuinneain from Mayo General Hospital, and Trish Scanlan from Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children Crumlin, all presented on institutional partnerships between Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania respectively. Each partnership was different; all served specific needs of the reciprocal institutions, and all showed impressive outcomes.

Dr. Scanlan painted a picture of a multi-faceted initiative to address paediatric oncology services in Dar Salaam, Tanzania. This multi-partner approach, with heavy Tanzanian government involvement, led to a specialised state of the art paediatric oncology service in Muhumbili University Hospital. This service allows for 24 hour access to paediatric care with specially trained local staff. This initiative has led to an increase in access to services and an increase in child survival rate from 5-10% to 50%. Benefits to the southern recipient were clear, however, any reciprocal benefits are yet to be documented. It was discussed that this may become more apparent over time. These institutions should ensure to recognise and record these benefits to ensure they do not fall into a donor-recipient relationship.

Professor Ryan spoke of the successful partnership between CUMH and community midwifery programmes across Sudan. A train the trainers’ model was applied for the “helping babies breathe” initiative to highlight the importance of a child obtaining their first breath within a minute was rolled out. This has led to reduction in maternal deaths and infant mortality. The partnership is now looking towards integrating this learning into college midwifery programmes. Once again, clear benefits from this low cost programme are apparent only to the maternity services in Sudan.

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Dr. Ni Bhuinneain discussed the partnership between Mayo general hospital and Londiani hospital in Kenya and was the only speaker who concretely spoke of benefits received from the African to Irish partners. This partnership originally began in 2003. It works on the principle of flexibility and adapting to the changing needs of each hospital annually. This has included programmes in; trauma, obstetrics and paediatrics, with a focus on capacity building. The similarity between the two hospitals has been integral to its success. Both hospitals are; based in rural settings, with similar populations and face challenges with motivation and retention of staff. One of the benefits Mayo General Hospital has taken from the partnership was the upskilling of their staff for provision of training in Kenya. This has led to more training on site in Mayo which led to cost reduction. Additionally, involvement of local GP’s and practice nurses in this partnership has led to improved communication and working between the local hospital and community services in Mayo.

It was acknowledged in the session that there are reciprocal benefits for both partners. The benefits for the three African partners was clearly indicated with the impressive statistics of; 86% reduction in maternal mortality, 50% reduction in neonatal deaths, along with increases in child survival rates from cancer. However, a clear sense of reciprocal exchange and partnership is needed. Vocalising and documenting these benefits may lead to many more institutions seeing the gains of these partnerships and following suit. It should be seen as an opportunity for all partners to show their and share their strengths. This will help to ensure that this work continues as a partnership and not as an aid based donor-recipient model.

Jessica O’Dowd

Key Correspondent

Email: odowdje@tcd.ie