February 22, 2012

Haiti’s Prime Minister calls for capacity building, ownership of aid

Rosann Wisman

Prior to January 10, 2010, the day the earthquake struck Haiti, 75% of health services were delivered by NGOs and faith-based groups outside the Ministry of Health’s guidelines and regulations. And the health sector was not the only part of the Haitian government lacking control over a large number of NGOs. Most government institutions were weak as thousands of NGOs provided the majority of public services. Many called Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, the “Republic of NGOs.”

Because of the lack of government capacity, the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) report, “Health Response to the Earthquake in Haiti,” stated that such a natural disaster could not have happened in a more vulnerable environment, “When the needs are compared to the national response capacity, this disaster was truly unprecedented.”

February 09, 2012

What we're reading

Sarah Lindsay

Sierra Leone’s President speaks at Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation

President Ernest Bai Koroma gave the keynote speech last week at the Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation. In his speech, President Koroma spoke of plans to construct infrastructure, build a “healthcare system that is the envy of the world,” and eventually transform Sierra Leone from a recipient nation to a donor nation. President Koroma was not shy in stating that Sierra Leone is in charge of their own development: “It is within our rights to have this vision for Sierra Leone; it is within our rights to want to be in charge of our transformation, and it is within our rights to chart the way forward towards this great vision.”

Read a transcript of President Koroma’s entire speech here.

February 08, 2012

Wisman responds to Economist article on foreign aid in Sierra Leone

Rosann Wisman

Sometimes the media doesn't do its reporting. And sometimes it's good to point that out. This happened recently in a short Economist article on Sierra Leone's free health care initiative, which can be found here. The writer's bias clearly came through -- that the West knows best, and a developing country's poor infrastructure means that  their leadership cannot be taken seriously. We disagree, of course, and here's my response:

The Economist produces some of the most insightful journalism in the world. But its reporting on this article on free health care in Sierra Leone was far below its standards. It relied on being glib as opposed to substantive; it assumed things as opposed to reporting on them.

January 23, 2012

Wisman on MLI: Skepticism faded, trust grew

Rosann Wisman

At MLI’s high-level roundtable “Advancing Country Ownership for Greater Results” held earlier this month, I spoke about the healthy skepticism that existed at the beginning of the MLI project and, in the end, a willingness to trust and take some risks.

I first mentioned skepticism on the part of country ministry leaders like Dr. Kisito Daoh, the chief medical officer in Sierra Leone, who found it hard to believe that MLI really wanted to hear about his priorities and opinions, particularly around our request for him to help us hire a senior advisor that he could trust.  But there also was skepticism on MLI’s part when Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Ethiopia wanted MLI to invest in a strategic planning and management system for the entire health sector.  And there was skepticism from donors in Mali when the ministries of health and social development wanted to expand the community based health insurance program to a national scale. 

But in each of these cases, skepticism faded and trust grew.  We took risks because we trusted each other and that led to more effective programs moving forward.

January 20, 2012

Voices on Ownership: US government officials

John Donnelly

This is the fourth of a series of perspective pieces on country ownership from the “Advancing Country Ownership for Greater Results” roundtable organized last week by the Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health (MLI), a program of Aspen Global Health and Development. This high-level dialogue included senior officials from developing countries, the US government, development partners and NGOs. These stories have run every day this week.

This fourth piece covers the comments made several senior US government officials:

Ariel Pablos-Méndez, USAID assistant administrator: “Country ownership is far more important now than it was 10 years ago in the global health discourse. We are at an inflection point for the political economy … in which money will change the culture. If we look at overseas development, it accounted for 70 percent of funds in developing countries 50 years ago. Now it accounts for only 13 percent. Domestically, country expenses are expanding dramatically. … Real country ownership will be moving toward the country as the country’s own resources grow. (USAID) used to work in over 100 countries, and now we are in 75, but we’re really focused on 30 countries. It is our wish to get out of a job in a way, but that is more than a generation away. The world is going in a good direction, but we are not there yet.”