Destined to Collaborate
By Melissa West, Director, Advocacy & Communications, VillageReach
I was finally able to trace our organization’s DNA when Mrs. Graça Machel came to Seattle to reconnect with her VillageReach “family.” Ma Machel was a VillageReach founding advisor and the inspiration to deliver lasting changes to health care for the under-reached. A force behind global shifts in policy and political will for women and girls, she has impressed upon us many lessons. One was “to know and intimately understand the communities in which we work, and to ensure their voices are represented.” Another is that “progress is always achieved through partnership.”
In the early months of the pandemic, African countries, and especially health care workers, were all but shut out of the PPE market due to hoarding and lack of global cooperation. The antidote was partnership. We joined likeminded collaborators to form the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa, a group of 30 organizations focused on getting community health workers (CHWs) access to PPE. More than 57 million pieces of PPE have been secured for 18 countries. It was reassuring that CHWs like Raphael Salanga and Reuben Chipelesa wouldn’t have to choose between protecting themselves or serving their communities.
Hoping the COVAX facility would equalize the vaccine playing field, VillageReach started counting the days when the first health worker was vaccinated in Washington State. 64 days have passed. The health workers caring for our colleagues with COVID in DRC, Malawi and Mozambique are both tireless and tired. It is agonizing not to be able to have a timeline for when the tide may shift. PPE remains essential to their protection in the meantime.
VillageReach is radically collaborating with community leaders, government, the private sector and implementing partners in several countries so not a day is wasted when vaccines do arrive. There’s no time to get territorial when we’re losing against a shifting target. There are some essential components: people who are empowered for the supply chain at every level, good data that’s used for decision-making, a predictable transport system and funding to move products. Despite the uncertainty of timing, we know faster progress will be made when we’re working together.
The defining narrative for 2021 will be our willingness to increase solidarity to make access to COVID-19 vaccines a right for everyone, everywhere. It starts by making sure that all health workers, wherever they live, are vaccinated. Along with Raphael and Reuben, we will all be counting the days until this happens.
VillageReach transforms health care delivery to reach everyone, so that each person has the health care needed to thrive. We develop solutions that improve equity and access to primary health care. This includes making sure products are available when and where they are needed and primary health care services are delivered to the most under-reached. Radical collaboration with governments, the private sector and other partners strengthen our ability to scale and sustain these solutions. Our work increases access to quality health care for 43 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.