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Women and Water in Kenya

This blog was cross-posted from International Medical Corps

In Kenya, a woman is burdened with the important chore of collecting, managing, transporting and storing water. This can be an incredibly challenging task in Samburu County in northern Kenya, one of the driest areas of the country often plagued by water shortages. Sometimes it will not rain for an entire year in the region. The land is desolate, exposed and sparsely populated. Without access to running water, a woman must walk to the closest natural water source many kilometers away, in fact the average distance a woman walks in Africa to collect water is six kilometers. Then, she must carry the heavy water all the way back, sometimes with a baby strapped to her back. Women in Africa on average carry 20 kg of water on their heads when they walk back from the water source.

Scola Letena, a housewife in Samburu County, only has access to one viable water source, the Nukutoto spring located in the mountains.  She must travel a great distance, particularly in the dry season, to fill up her jerrycans. However, when the water in the spring dries up she must go much further to another town 11 kilometers away with her donkey and eight children to fetch water. When this happens, her children miss school. Given the severe drought that is currently afflicting East Africa, the spring dries up often and the children miss more school. When the spring is producing water, Scola must make the arduous hike up the mountain while avoiding wild animals who also drink from the spring. Scola says, “I usually come early in the morning to fetch water. In the morning I can manage to fetch ten liters while in the evening only five liters can be found because of competition with wild animals.” Scola’s aging neighbor, Naonkota, complains that she cannot carry as much water as the younger women. Despite her age and weak knees, she is still responsible for the water in her household and she says, “Walking uphill is very difficult for me. Even if I make it to the source, I can only manage to carry back a… jerrycan (5 liters) of water.”

Not only must Scola and Naonkota avoid leopards and poisonous snakes on the trip to the spring, but the water could be contaminated. Elephants are known to muddy the water and baboons defecate in the water. Contaminated water leads to high risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera and typhoid. A small-scale cholera outbreak resulted from this spring in 2013 because residents had no other choice than to drink this water. Diarrhea is responsible for almost 7.7% of all deaths in Africa.  Water is life, as the saying goes, and in Kenya when that water is contaminated, it can also mean death.

International Medical Corps, with funding from Brighton, has started to address the dire situation and access to water in Nkutoto by building a concrete shelter at the source to protect the spring from contamination and laying a series of pipelines to bring the water down the mountain and into the village for easy access.  With the newly constructed water tap, the women of Nkuoto village do not have to walk up the mountain, often with their livestock and children in tow, to collect water. A town elder, Situelia says, “This has ensured that our women are safe from wild animals while the water is also being used to sate our livestock.”

The lack of access to clean water affects women all over Samburu County. Silango is a remote village about 20 km from Wamba town that can only be accessed via unreliable public transportation on rough, unpaved roads. Silango, like Nkutoto, is burdened by chronic drought and disease. Recently, International Medical Corps spent about a month building the Silango sand dam, an innovative technology for harvesting rainwaters and providing a community with clean, reliable water. Previously, women of Silango had to walk seven km from the nearest road to the closest water source. The sand dam is now less than 500 meters to the village and saves women an enormous amount of time and energy. The sand dam collects and stores rain water and prevents the water from evaporating during dry season. The sand filters the water which helps prevent waterborne disease. The sand dam is also tapped and directed to the health center, the school and the outdoor market. International Medical Corps has installed a hand pump to provide access to potable water for the community and also built cattle troughs.

Susan, a mother living in Engilae, another village in Samburu county where International Medical Corps is working, says before International Medical Corps began its sanitation projects in Engilae, the maternity wing at the health center was not operating at optimum levels due to lack of an adequate water supply. The nationally recommended supply for a health center in Kenya is 10,000 liters per day. The women had to walk a distance of 2 km to the Ngeng’ river to fetch water and carry it uphill to use at the health center; bringing 10,000 liters from the river everyday was an impossible task. There was never enough water to treat patients properly and it was often contaminated. This was the water used to clean mothers on the delivery beds. Now, International Medical Corps, with funding from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Brighton, have establish a successful water and sanitation project at the health center including building latrines, promoting good hygiene practices, and most importantly creating access to a water supply, water storage and distribution facilities. Susan says that incidences of maternal and child health problems are decreasing thanks to the delivery of necessary services.

In an effort to unite women in Kenya in their shared burden over water chores, International Medical Corps has trained local women to form Mother to Mother Support Groups. Susan founded such a group in Engilae. In this group, Susan educates other mothers about important water and sanitation practices. She says, “International Medical Corps has shown us how to use baby pampers. Previously it was very embarrassing for us especially when the baby soiled its clothes. We usually dispose the Pampers by dumping in the pit latrines or burning,” she says. “We have also learnt how to use baby napkins. They are very good because one can use them several times after washing them.”

International Medical Corps Fights Acute Malnutrition in Children in Philippines

This blog was cross-posted from International Medical Corps and wrttien by Jenna Montgomery. 

Children are among the most vulnerable during and after an emergency. When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013, countless children living in remote communities were left cut off from critical health care services. International Medical Corps First Responders were on the ground within 24 hours and began health consultations in the most remote and hardest-to-reach areas. Leyte province was one of these isolated yet devastated areas where International Medical Corps First Responders set up operations. Linked with the massive destruction of crops, cut-off supply routes and the risk of communicable diseases, our teams found that many children were at risk of malnutrition and needed immediate health interventions.

A resident of Albuera in Leyte Province, 36-year-old Melodina is the mother of 9 children, ranging in age from 20 years to 20 months. Her 20-month-old twins, Cristina Marie and Cristine Joy, are now receiving a regular supply of a peanut-based paste called PlumpySup, a nutrient-rich food supplement provided by International Medical Corps, UNICEF, and the World Food Program (WFP). Prior to the typhoon, Melodina’s children subsisted off of their father’s construction wages of 200 pesos (4 USD) per month, which paid for rice and fish. The root crops and vegetables grown in their backyard supplemented the family’s diet and income. Because Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the family home and garden, they are no longer able to rely on their crops for money or for food. Furthermore, the children’s father is left without a regular means of income. Now, the family lives in a makeshift tent and relies on relief goods and help from non-governmental organizations. Melodina has been coming to the barangay (neighborhood) distribution site for Cristina Marie and Cristine Joy’s lifesaving food rations.

Working with UNICEF and the World Food Program, International Medical Corps is able to reach Albuera with critical nutrition programs — as well as ten other municipalities affected by Haiyan. These programs are designed to manage and treat acute malnutrition and especially promote infant and young child feeding. Cristina Marie and Christine Joy are just two examples of vulnerable children at risk of acute malnutrition after a natural disaster. Melodina is very thankful for International Medical Corps and our support of her family during these difficult times.

Reaching Mothers in Rural Afghanistan with Lifesaving Care

The blog was cross-posted from International Medical Corps.

Afghanistan suffers from one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with approximately 1,600 out of every 100,000 Afghan mothers dying while giving birth or because of related complications (UNICEF).  Many of these deaths could be prevented by having a skilled birth attendant or midwife present.  But for large portions of the population living in rural areas, access to appropriate and affordable medical care is often nonexistent.

In the eastern border provinces of Khost and Paktika, International Medical Corps operates highly successful, award-winning Community Midwifery Education (CME) programs, training women to assist expectant mothers through pregnancy, child birth and post-natal care. Students learn essential clinical skills, including how to perform an antenatal exam, manage severe hypertension, address life-threatening complications and resuscitate a newborn. The Khost CME program has been recognized as the best midwifery training in the country. Its graduates—all raised in the province—are helping ease the major shortage of midwives.

Fatima*, a young woman from the countryside, wanted to be trained as a midwife but her family didn’t support her ambitions. Her uncle especially emphasized that she should focus on getting married and being a good wife. But Fatima successfully fought to get her training anyway and completed International Medical Corps’ midwifery program.

One night, Fatima was woken up by loud banging on her front door. It was that same uncle, frantic because his pregnant wife, Amina*, was in labor and in excruciating pain. It was 1:30 in the morning but Fatima quickly gathered her supplies and headed out in the dark.  She walked across rough Afghan terrain for an hour and half to reach her uncle’s home. As she entered the house, she heard Amina screaming out in pain. Fatima immediately got to work delivering the baby, all the while trying to calm a terrified Amina.

Fatima delivered a healthy baby boy at 4:30am but Amina remained in distress. Using her training, Fatima identified and addressed the life-threatening complication—saving Amina’s life as a result. But if she hadn’t been there, Amina would have died—like too many others. Unsurprisingly, Fatima’s family now whole-heartedly supports her training!

International Medical Corps has trained 2,000 midwives like Fatima. Each one can provide up to 330 women from her own community with maternal health care. That’s 660,000 women reached—every year.

Despite the unsettled security conditions, International Medical Corps has tended to Afghan health care needs for over a quarter of a century. We provide support to two major hospitals in Kabul, one in the eastern border province of Paktika, and four District hospitals. We also support a mental health hospital in Kabul and associated substance misuse center through funding from the European Commission. Other programs include support for returning Afghan refugees, and integrated community health care and nutrition programs in the mountainous northeastern province of Nuristan and primary health care services delivery in Paktika.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Davos Roundtable on Shared Value and Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships

This blog was cross-posted from FSG and co-written by Christina Hooson, Sonja Patscheke, and Kate Tallant.

As we approach September 2015 when world leaders will adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide the post-2015 Development Agenda, questions of how and who will implement them are increasingly dominating discussions. It is clear that achieving the SDGs will require assets and action from a variety of actors across the private, public, and non-profit sectors. The development of the SDGs is a step in the right direction: the process has been inclusive, consulting all stakeholders including business. In this sense, the SDGs represent a new social compact in which private sector, civil society, and governments each have a role to play.

For companies exploring ways to simultaneously create business and social value, the SDGs are an opportunity. Once finalized, the 17 goals and 169 targets will provide a menu from which companies can identify the social issues key to their business, and a common platform for strong multi-stakeholder partnerships to create the systemic change required to overcome what are inherently complex social challenges.

Building on this momentum, FSG’s Shared Value Initiative and the UN Foundation brought together 45 corporate and civil society leaders at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. (See a list of participants below.) The conversation, led by FSG Managing Director Marc Pfitzer, drew on the experiences around the room to explore how multi-stakeholder partnerships can be optimized to create shared value and help achieve the SDGs. We discussed the post-2015 policy context, shared lessons learned from building coalitions to address systemic challenges ranging from diabetes and malaria, to sustainable agriculture and youth employment, and reflected on what needs to be done differently by organizations in how they engage internally and externally to build such partnerships. In particular, we discussed what companies can do to strengthen their actions in multi-stakeholder partnerships that have the potential to create sustainable impact at scale. As Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN and Co-Facilitator of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, said in his opening remarks: “There is money to be made, profit to be had, and good to be done.”

Five key recommendations for companies emerged during the conversation:

Identify the problem. Successful multi-stakeholder partnerships are built on a common understanding of the problem they aim to solve. The SDGs are a useful tool to help identify the social issues that matter to a particular company. Having defined the basic need, companies can then analyze the system to understand the underlying challenges to address and actors that need to be involved in order to effect change. Reflecting on Novo Nordisk’s work across sectors to improve access to diabetes care, Ole Kjerkegaard Nielsen, the company’s Programme Director for Corporate Sustainability, emphasized the importance of doing such diagnostics work upfront: “It’s like driving a car with multiple handbrakes. If you want to change diabetes in a county, you have to identify which of the maybe 6 or 7 handbrakes need to be released in order to get the car started.”

Co-create solutions. We are increasingly seeing the line between business and the non-profit sector blur as businesses invest in social good and NGOs develop sophisticated business models. As Steve Davis, CEO of PATH noted, “understanding and capitalizing on the opportunity presented by this blurred line will help us deliver on the aims of the SDGs”. Having identified the problem and relevant partners from the private, public, and non-profit sectors, corporations can build on this convergence in language, mission and actions. Co-creating means aligning around a common agenda and building approaches that draw on the respective strengths of each partner to pull the levers and address the identified need.

Embrace non-competitive collaboration. Companies operating in the same industry and/or location often face the same complex and systemic challenges. Tackling these challenges together in multi-stakeholder arrangements, rather than in silos, presents an opportunity to achieve impact at scale. The challenges stretch far beyond the realm of what is possible for one company to achieve on its own, and as Christian Spano, Global Lead for Socio-Economic Development at Anglo American, pointed out, trying to gain a competitive edge by attempting to ‘go it alone’ is misplaced in this context: “We shouldn’t compete on our social license to operate; problems are systemic and affect all. It is how you implement as a business that allows you to differentiate”. Companies should consider partnering with competitors to address common challenges in areas such as agricultural supply chain / cluster development and enterprise development / local procurement that are integral to their business operations.

Build corporate commitment. Lines are also blurring within companies as the opportunity to create shared value brings business and corporate responsibility units together. In addition to promoting internal collaboration, companies should create the right incentive mechanisms; foster long-term commitment and a comfort with uncertainty and experimentation; and develop leadership to support effective corporate engagement in multi-stakeholder partnerships. Champions within the company can act as catalysts of change, supporting this internal process of cultural alignment. Thomas Osburg, Director Europe, Corporate Affairs & Innovation at Intel noted that: “In reality, it is sometimes very personalin addition to great coalitions between lots of stakeholders, you often have one or two people in each organization standing behind these programs and driving progress.”

Invest in institutional capacity. The most successful multi-stakeholder partnerships invest in building a support infrastructure or “backbone” that coordinates the activities of the different partners, ensures these activities are mutually reinforcing and driving towards a common goal, and facilitates communication throughout the process. This requires funders to think long-term and invest accordingly. As Jamie McAuliffe, President and CEO of Education for Employment highlighted: “Funders and investors should think beyond short-term project funding cycles and consider investing in the institutional capacity of their social change partners to effect meaningful, lasting impact”. It is only by investing sufficiently in the right support infrastructure that multi-stakeholder partnerships will be able to create systemic and lasting change.

The roundtable at Davos was a great conversation and highlighted a number of lessons from similar experiences across a range of organizations, but also raised a number of questions that will need to be addressed going forward. How do we, for example, best align multi-stakeholder initiatives with broader national agendas or action plans? What should be the role of governments in bringing actors together? How can we more effectively engage bilateral and multilateral donors who traditionally have more of a sector-specific view? And, of course, the big question: How do we build the capacity and infrastructure both within organizations and in the system to really deliver on the post-2015 Development Agenda?

We will continue to explore these issues through our work—please share your thoughts and join the conversation!

Roundtable Participants

  • Christian Spano, Global Lead for Socio-Economic Development, Anglo American
  • Maria Ramos, Chief Executive, Barclays Africa Group, Barclays
  • Rebecca Walton, Director, Partnerships & Business Development, British Council
  • Michele Sullivan, President, Caterpillar Foundation
  • Martha Herrera, Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Cemex
  • Tamela Noboa, Managing Director, Discovery Learning Alliance
  • Stephan Tanda, Managing Board Member, DSM
  • Jamie McAuliffe, President & Chief Executive Officer, Education for Employment
  • Clare Woodcraft-Scott, Chief Executive Officer, Emirates Foundation
  • Juan Luis Coderque Galligo, Head, Corporate Partnerships, International Committee of the Red Cross
  • Robert Kaufman, Manager, Strategic Partnerships & International Relations, International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies
  • Paul Ellingstad, Director, Sustainability & Social Innovation, Hewlett-Packard
  • Thomas Osburg, Director Europe, Corporate Affairs & Innovation, Intel
  • Neal Keny-Guyer, Chief Executive Officer, Mercy Corps
  • James Bernard, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, Microsoft
  • Janet Voûte-Allen, Global Head, Public Affairs, Nestlé
  • Ghislaine Weder, Assistant Vice President, Economics & International Relations, Nestlé
  • Elaine Dorward-King, Executive Vice President, Sustainability & External Relations, Newmont
  • Karen Kornbluh, Executive Vice President, External Affairs, Nielsen
  • Charlotte Ersbøl, Corporate Vice President, Corporate Stakeholder Engagement, Novo Nordisk
  • Ole Kjerkegaard Nielsen, Program Director, Corporate Sustainability, Novo Nordisk
  • Thomas Videbæk, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Novozymes
  • Mark Viso, President & Chief Executive Officer, Pact
  • Steve Davis, President & Chief Executive Officer, PATH
  • Amanda Gardiner, Vice President, Sustainability & Social Innovation, Pearson
  • Deirdre White, Chief Executive Officer, PYXERA Global
  • Berit Ashla, Vice President, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors
  • Alicia Lenze, Head of Global Corporate Social Responsibility, Global Corporate Affairs, SAP
  • Konrad Specker, Head of Institutional Partnerships, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
  • Marcia Smith, Senior Vice President, Sustainability & External Affairs, Teck
  • Daniel Duty, Vice President, Global Affairs & Corporate Social Responsibility, Target, Inc.
  • Pradeep Ramamurthy, Managing Director, The Abraaj Group
  • Jeff Seabright, Chief Sustainability Officer, Unilever
  • Paul Dyck, Senior Director, International Government Relations, Walmart
  • Luella Chavez D’Angelo, Chief Communications Officer, Western Union
  • Cheryl Freeman, Senior Director, Advocacy & Justice for Children, World Vision International
  • Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General, UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs
  • H.E. Mr. Macharia Kamau, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations
  • H.E. Mr. David Donoghue, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations

Roundtable Hosts

  • Sonja Patscheke, Director, FSG
  • Marc Pfitzer, Managing Director, FSG
  • Kate Tallant, Director, FSG
  • Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer, UN Foundation
  • Susan Myers, Senior Vice President, UN Foundation 



5 Insights on Leading Successful Private Nonprofit Global Health Partnerships

5 Insights on Leading Successful Private Nonprofit Global Health Partnerships

This blog was cross-posted from K4Health’s Blog. Written by Leslie Heyer, Founder & President, Cycle Technologies

Historically, it has been a challenge for the private sector and nonprofits to successfully partner. Each side tended to distrust the other’s intentions, and the goals were often mismatched. Having worked in the global health sector leading a private social impact company for the past 13 years, I’ve seen a positive change in this dynamic in recent years.

The private sector has begun to understand and emphasize the importance of having social impact that goes beyond just how it impacts the company’s bottom line. Nonprofits have begun to see that there’s more to the private sector than profit-seeking. Beyond its potential as a funder, the private sector can be a key partner, offering skills and pathways to create programs with real impact.

Nowhere is it more important for cross-sector partnerships to succeed than in global health. With people’s lives at stake, it is critical that the best and most appropriate solutions are made available in a cost-effective, sustainable way.

Through Cycle Technologies’ work with the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University (IRH) we have learned a lot about what it takes to have a successful partnership between a private company and a nonprofit research organization. We’ve gained a few insights along the way.

Insight 1: Find partners you trust.

This might seem obvious, but the fact is that you have to truly trust each other. You have to know that regardless of what agreements might or might not say, the people involved are going to do their best to “do right”. If you don’t have this level of inherent trust, the partnership is doomed. Even with this level of trust, partnerships take a lot of work, but this confidence will help overcome and address any issues that come up.

Insight 2: Understand the individual goals of each organization in addition to the partnership goals.

Most organizations will lay out specific goals for the relationship. But it’s also critical that partners understand each other’s individual interests, goals, and motivations. If one partner is not getting what it wants or needs out of the relationship, it won’t be long before this partner becomes less invested. Or, other interests may creep in and affect an organization’s initial commitments to achieving collective goals. Communicating this can sometimes be a challenge, but if you trust each other (see insight 1), you are more likely to have an open, honest dialogue about juggling your own needs with that of the partnership.

Insight 3: Focus on HOW you will work together more than WHY you will work together.

You must have a shared vision for achieving project goals. But in order for a partnership to succeed, it’s even more important to think about how the partners will work together. Who is responsible for which activities? Be clear and specific. How will decisions get made? Involve both organizations to bring different perspectives to the table. How do we know we are on the right track? Create metrics to identify progress and discuss any gaps before they undermine the work. The answers to these questions may evolve and change, so make sure you have frequent and ongoing conversations about what’s working, what’s not, and how to improve the process.

Insight 4: Communicate about the partnership internally.

Partnerships are really about people. All too often they involve only a few people at each organization. Without a lot of internal communication, many of the people in an organization may be completely unaware of the partnership, or at the very least unaware of how it is affecting their work. In order for a partnership to be truly successful, everyone at an organization should have at least a basic understanding of the collaboration and the benefits that it brings to his or her organization. This creates buy-in, which ensures the partnership remains strong. Involving others can also generate new ideas and opportunities for growth.

Insight 5: Embrace your differences, and figure out how best to leverage them.

Among the greatest assets that a partnership brings are complementary skill sets. Private companies often bring intellectual property, manufacturing and distribution capabilities, and expertise in sustainable business practices. Nonprofit organizations often bring expertise in low- and middle-income country health systems, research and evaluation capabilities, and partnerships with policymakers and governments. The goal of any cross-sector partnership is to bring together these different skill sets to achieve more than either organization could possibly hope to achieve alone.

Partnerships are complex, but successful partnerships can make for extremely fruitful interventions and projects that save lives.