Thursday, January 21, 2021

USD$30m emergency loan facility for private primary health care providers in Africa during COVID-19 unveiled

By Esther Nakkazi

A USD$30 million new emergency loan guarantee facility for private primary health care providers in Africa is available to private, small, and medium health care providers in Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda during COVID-19.

The loans will support private sector healthcare providers in sub-Saharan Africa to continue offering essential health services, including malaria treatments, to more than five million Africans.

The facility was created by the Health Finance Coalition, a group of leading philanthropies, investors, donors, and technical partners focused on mobilizing significant private investment to achieve transformative healthcare impact in Africa.

“COVID-19 has posed significant challenges for small and medium-sized private sector health facilities in Africa. Investing in these important health systems can help countries in sub-Saharan Africa withstand the current pandemic while supporting millions of people who rely on these facilities,” said Nafisa Jiwani, Managing Director, Health Initiatives, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.

Private sector healthcare providers deliver nearly 50 percent of all healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa, including life-saving interventions such as early malaria diagnosis and treatment, antenatal care, and routine vaccinations.

If left unaddressed, these vital health needs could overwhelm already overburdened health systems and add to the loss of life during the pandemic. Projections in 2020, for example, estimated that moderate disruptions in treatment-seeking could lead to as many as 100,000 additional malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

“This facility is one of the first solutions of its kind to address the twin health and economic crises facing the private health sector in Africa due to COVID-19. We hope it will spark a broader response using creative finance solutions to save lives from malaria and address Africa’s most urgent health needs,” said Martin Edlund, the Chief Executive Officer, Malaria No More.

As countries have shut down sectors of their economies and asked citizens to remain at home to slow the spread of COVID-19, all health providers have seen a decrease in demand for services. For private healthcare providers, this also means decreased revenues, putting them at risk of closing during a time when access to care is already a challenge.

The Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative
is one of the first initiatives to address the economic crunch that the private health sector in Africa is facing due to COVID-19. A catalytic $700,000 investment by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) enables a $17.7 million loan guarantee from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and $1.5 million in philanthropic funding from The Rockefeller Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, and the MCJ Amelior Foundation. Together, this effort unlocks more than $30 million in loans to SME health providers. Additional support comes from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Center for Innovation and Impact (CII).

“With COVID-19 putting tremendous financial pressure on health budgets across Africa, we need creative financing solutions to help governments achieve their ambitious health goals. This initiative, which supports private health providers through a blend of grants and return-seeking capital, is a leading example. I hope to see strategies such as this one scaled up in the months to come,” said Ray Chambers, WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and Health Financing and Chair, the MCJ Amelior Foundation.

“Private sector healthcare providers are critical to safeguarding health and well-being. Financial support from Open Doors African Private Healthcare Initiative will enable them to support the COVID-19 response and continue to provide essential health services that keep people and communities healthy,” said Naveen Rao, Senior Vice President for Health, The Rockefeller Foundation.

Of the five million patients that the loan facility could impact, almost 3 million are low-income patients, and approximately 2.4 million are women and 1.4 million are children, who are disproportionately at risk of malaria and other infectious diseases.

The loan facility will be managed by Malaria No More and loans will be administered through the Medical Credit Fund (MCF), a non-profit health investment fund. 

Loans are expected to average $17,000 per provider to help stabilize operations, buy essential medical equipment including personal protective equipment, and finance small-scale construction to protect patients from COVID-19 infection.

MCF’s partner organization SafeCare, in collaboration with PMI, will provide training materials to facilities on how to continue providing routine services safely during the pandemic.

“This initiative multiplies impact through its blended finance structure and collaborative efforts. Through the cooperative effort between the Skoll, Rockefeller and MCJ Amelior Foundations, this loan guarantee leverages philanthropic capital to unlock additional, essential funds to preserve vital health services throughout Africa," commented Bruce Lowry, Senior Advisor, Skoll Foundation.

“Many of our clients are under increased pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and see patient visits and revenues decrease. This agreement helps us to further support health entrepreneurs so they can continue providing the services needed to keep their communities healthy,” said Kennedy Okong'o, Director East Africa, Medical Credit Fund.

An initiative like this is urgently needed to save lives and livelihoods as COVID-19 persists on the continent. Private health facilities provide 50% of all health services in Africa, yet many of these providers are at risk of closing due to lost revenue amid the pandemic. 

Keeping PHPs open is critical for ensuring Africans can safely access essential health services during the pandemic and preventing a resurgence of other deadly diseases. It also is important for helping local economies recover by ensuring these businesses can continue operating.

For more information or to apply for a loan visit:


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A tribute to two great advocates, story tellers and mentors to many

By Esther Nakkazi

It is not possible to honor all the health workers, advocates, and media personnel who have died of COVID-19 but telling the story of Dr. Charles Kiggundu and Patrick Luganda may serve as a tribute to them and others.

Both Dr. Charles Kiggundu and Patrick Luganda were consultants in their fields, advocates of difficult topics, mentors, passionate with their jobs, high achievers, great communicators, and storytellers. They also, unfortunately, lost their lives to COVID-19.

Dr. Charles Kiggundu, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist was born in Kasiso, Kasana in Luwero district and died on 29th December 2020, aged 55 years.

I last talked to him on 26th September 2020, when the Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU) in partnership with the Association of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Uganda (AOGU) held a science media Café on safe abortion in health care.

Dr. Kiggundu was one of the speakers at this Café and he had been a speaker on many more and others which were in commemoration of International safe abortion day of September 28th.

I was the moderator but it was initiated by one of the HEJNU members and it was Saturday so I was a bundle of nerves about timekeeping, speakers, and HEJNU members showing up. Dr. Kiggundu was already at the venue. He had arrived over 30 minutes early.

He was his usual self talking about how COVID-19 had affected reproductive health, giving insight about different topics as the questions were flowing from whoever came before the function started, and giving story ideas about his favorite topic; access to safe abortion. He was brilliant, easy to talk and he liked to tell stories to illustrate a point.

Many words have been used to describe Dr. Kiggundu; CEHURD where he was a board member described him as an advocate for post-abortion care, health justice, and reproductive health rights. Asia Russell an advocate for health justice and access to treatment for all tweeted;

From a media perspective, he was a devoted, unselfish individual always ready to share his knowledge and a fierce advocate for maternal health rights and for his patients. Due to personal values, religion, beliefs, and how society will judge most people will steer clear of discussions around topics like abortion, GMOs especially with the media.

Dr. Kiggundu was never afraid to speak about access to safe abortion. He was friendly with everyone and thrived in leadership roles with a down-to-earth style that made us in the media comfortable asking about anything in his specialty.

Vivian Agaba a journalist and member of HEJNU described Dr. Kiggundu as very knowledgeable and passionate about maternal and child health. “Most of the times when I was writing health-related articles regarding maternal and child health for the New Vision, he was always willing to share information.”

“Some times, I would interview him from Kawempe hospital many times sparing about 30 minutes of his precious time with his patients. He became a good friend, says Agaba.

Losing Dr. Kiggundu causes direct and indirect harms that are impossible to overstate said Rusell.

“His death is a blow not just to us but to everyone who has drunk from his wealth of wisdom, including several civil society organizations, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, and women's movements. That he will be greatly missed is an understatement,” said a statement from CEHURD.

In the world scientists like Dr. Kiggundu are gems, hard to come by so losing him is going to create a void in that space that is very hard to fill. He delivered on his promises, served above self and we shall greatly miss him.

Dr. Kiggundu's last post on his Linkedin account says; “Let us work to leave a mark. Work to be well remembered ever. Leave society better. Don’t just do what people will quickly applaud. Do good.” #RIPCharlesKiggundu

Patrick Nkono Luganda: “Many agree Patrick Luganda, will be remembered as the father of agriculture journalism in Uganda, climate journalism in greater horn of Africa and mentor of many senior journalists,” said an article published in the Sunday Vision.

Patrick Luganda was a science journalist, consultant, trainer, farmer, and co-founder of many media organizations including Network of Climate Change journalists in the Greater Horn of Africa (NECJOGHA).

He was the Executive director of EBAFOSA /UNEP that seeks to combat food insecurity, climate change, ecosystems degradation, and poverty in Africa using an innovative approach. He was born on 8th October 1957 and died on 16th December 2020.

I first met Patrick in 2006 in Nairobi at a training workshop organized by the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ). We were both mentees and paired with mentors. I had almost just started out and didn't know much about science journalism but ready to learn, to be mentored, most of us were and so was Patrick even if he already was a seasoned, award-winning journalist.

In 1999, Patrick co-won the A.H. Boerma Award worth $10,000 and an all-expenses-paid visit to Rome to receive the Award with his spouse. He reported extensively on the cassava mosaic viral attack causing food insecurity for thousands of people and his efforts also resulted in a rapid technology transfer that restored the food production of cassava.

“Mr. Luganda's concrete and descriptive way of featuring policy and decision-makers, research and beneficiaries on an equal basis, makes him a journalist of outstanding caliber. His weekly programs on Radio Uganda intended for rural communities, have encouraged this sector to apprehend and implement improved agronomy methods.”

During the WFSJ mentoring program, Patrick was never assuming, as much as he knew so much and was willing to share his knowledge he also pretty much followed through with the program that lasted for four years.

I have already talked about difficult topics in the media and climate change is one of those but Patrick easily trained, advocated, and simplified it to a level that even those who did not care listened.

He was passionate about innovations in agriculture and trained, preached, and lived them practically. He loved to tell stories, use illustrations as he was training, and speak in different languages that simplified science and technology.

Patrick was such a great speaker on climate change he received the loudest applause on any panel I have participated in at a conference. So in 2009, we both were panelists on a roundtable about climate change at the 7th World Conference of Science Journalists in London. I had just returned from a year-long fellowship in the USA and was very confident and pleased with my submissions.

When I listened to Patrick on that panel there was no doubt about the passion, energy, knowledge, and ability to deliver and the audience, of course, reacted with a big applause. As we stood outside after the panel he was flooded for contacts. When I reminded him about that experience he encouraged me - ‘you will get there’ and laughed off.

Patrick loved his family. I don’t remember ever having a conversation that did not meander to the kids, his parents, or family. Losing him is going to create a void that is pretty hard to fill in the science journalism profession. #RIPPAtrickLuganda