By Esther Nakkazi
Improvement of maternal and child health in East Africa is the goal of a new strategic partnership between the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International and Aga Khan University (AKU).
Under the partnership, the Rotary Foundation – the charitable arm of Rotary International -- will provide grants to Rotary clubs to establish volunteer teams to support the professional development of nursing faculty at AKU’s East Africa campuses in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
“Our Rotary clubs in East Africa are eager to partner with the top-notch professionals at Aga Khan University to help ensure that mothers and their infants receive the best health care possible,” says Samuel F. Owori, of Kampala, Uganda, a member of the Rotary International Board of Directors.
“This partnership represents an immense contribution to the health and well-being of families throughout our region."
The teams will work with local Rotary clubs and AKU to carry out community service projects linking the classroom lessons to existing clinics and health care programs.
Rotary grants will also fund nursing and midwifery scholarships for students admitted to AKU’s Advanced Nursing Studies (ANS) program. Scholarship recipients will have the opportunity to be mentored through the program by local Rotary clubs.
The Aga Khan University’s ANS program was established in response to requests from East African governments to help upgrade nursing skills and build healthcare human resource capacity in the region.
Through continuing education programs, graduates are able to work in their communities to provide better quality health care services as well as lead policy development at the national level. The result is better-qualified regional healthcare professionals who are helping to build accessible, responsive and sustainable healthcare systems in East Africa.
Rotary Foundation Chair Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar said that the partnership “is an important step toward meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for maternal and child health.”
The UN Millennium Goals call for a 75 percent reduction in maternal deaths -- and a two-thirds reduction in the death rate of children under age five -- by 2015.
The UN says developing countries account for 99 percent of the more than 350,000 women who die each year from complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s risk of maternal death is 1 in 30, compared to 1 in 5,600 in developed countries. The same region records the highest childhood mortality rates, with one in seven dying before their fifth birthday. Worldwide, more than 9 million children under 5 die each year.
“This partnership will enable a greater number of qualified students from poor communities to benefit from our programs,” states AKU President Firoz Rasul. “Partnerships such as this one build much needed capacity in the developing world, but more importantly, they enable innovation and the creation of knowledge to address local health problems.”
Rotary International is a global humanitarian service organization, and Aga Khan University (AKU), a private, non-denominational university promoting human development through research, teaching and community service.
AKU is one of nine agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private development agencies with mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalization of historic cities.
Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. There are 1.2 million Rotary members in 34,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary clubs have been serving communities worldwide for more than a century.