Big City Life

This past Friday, we took a bus to Accra, the biggest city in Ghana. It wasn’t so much of a bus as it was a jam-packed bus-van that drove us the four hours over endless potholes and dirt roads to the overcrowded and dusty city. But, the ride was only 11 Cedi (about $6.50) each way, so I can’t really complain.
Why did we take a 24-hour excursion to Accra? One of CareNet’s main benefactors, Anesvad, partners with and funds many projects and campaigns in Ghana. The Spanish foundation put on a forum for the directors of their Ghanaian partner projects, followed by a small reception, to facilitate conversation and networking. Anesvad is a very cool health development NGO that has worked to protect health and human rights for the past 40 years. Their mission statement reads, “Health is a basic Human Right, inherent to all human beings. Hence, the lack of health in human beings is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. It handicaps the development of populations and limits the opportunities of people. In Anesvad, we believe that working towards universal healthcare is our best contribution to the development, promotion, and protection of Human Rights and the dignity of people.” Anesvad works in 19 countries worldwide, donating millions of dollars, and strives to fund programs that work intricately within the culture of each country in order to achieve sustainability as opposed to being Band-Aid organization.
When the director of Anesvad spoke at the forum, he brought up some very eye opening and interesting concepts. As most NGOs have seen since the economic downturn, the donations Anesvad receives have drastically decreased, up to 90% cuts in some areas. So, recently, Anesvad has devised a new approach to maximize on efficient spending and not have to cut funding to partner programs. In fact, their new approach due to constricted monetary resources is even more all encompassing. Instead of being a bottleneck organization—receiving funds, acting as a clearinghouse, and disseminating funds—Anesvad hopes to take a more holistic approach. This involves opening more lines of communication between all their partners, as well as governments and other public and private sectors. They call it a Rights-Based Approach to Health. The hope is that their partner projects will adopt this approach to maximize funds and work from the bottom up, education and such, when addressing health issues. It will definitely be interesting to watch the organization and see how they grow in the coming years.
During the reception portion of the event, I got the opportunity to speak with Bernardo, the director of Anesvad who spoke. We spoke about the issue of decreased funding and I gave him congratulatory remarks on the new approach. I explained to him how I really appreciate and respect this idea of a holistic methodology as it places more emphasis on health as a basic human right and might have the potential for more ground level sustainability in the long run. The conversation was mostly comprised of congratulations and exchange of stories, but I walked away with his business card—something very exciting for someone so young in the field! The forum as a whole was quite interesting, with people attending and speaking from CareNet Ghana, USAID, the World Bank, Ghana’s Deputy Ministry of Health, and various other NGOs. Besides the delicious hors d’oeuvres (containing no rice OR beans!) served after the forum, the 24-hour trip to Accra was an amazing learning experience and well worth the grueling 8-hour round trip bus-van ride.