Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

MMI Network News, 26 February 2018

Photo: FAO (Haiti, 2010)
Photo: FAO (Haiti, 2010)

First do no harm. And then? (Editorial)

Dear reader,

Ten days ago, at a MMI planning workshop in Bilbao, we discussed how to bring our work on “moving health cooperation beyond aid” to a next level. I was happy and relieved that we made good progress in the development of a new work plan in this core field of our Network’s engagement. You will soon hear more about this.

Back at my Basel office, I stumbled over the “Oxfam scandal” – sexual abuse and exploitation by staff – that found great attention far beyond the UK, and over the related debates on international NGOs and foreign aid. A terrible story, one that really hurts. We too...

I was tempted to use the Oxfam scandal (beyond the abuse: the related institutional failures and the reactions of the “system”) to advance our Network’s cause – the promotion of self-reflection, institutional learning, sharing and cooperation for improving policies and practices of international NGOs. But, as one of the many commenters asks, “is it gratuitous to link the scandal engulfing Oxfam with the need to transform NGOs and foreign aid?” So I hesitated. And I started to read all the analysis of the particular case(s) and its implications, including very frustrated comments on the “NGO bashing”. Two voices by Network members found my particular attention: The short and sharp institutional statement by Cordaid (“Every form of sexual abuse goes against the heart of who we are and what we stand for”) and the great contribution by Willem van de Put (ITM Antwerp).

Like Willem, I conclude that, yes, we have to address the “Oxfam case” as part of our reflection about the future of NGOs in international (health) cooperation:  “Whether or not the critique is an example of selective morality, the fact is that the humanitarian world needs to change fast if it wants to remain part of the solution, and not cause more problems.”

Assessments and answers about how to deal with sexual abuse and exploitation by staff need to be found at all levels: By the individual (first do no harm; but beyond this: what guides your work and behaviour?), by the institution (what values, norms, and regulations can you refer to in order to prevent such cases and, if they occur, to deal with them in an adequate way? see the Cordaid statement), and by the International NGO sector as a whole. Yes, “we too”!

As Willem put it: “The ‘humanitarian world’ needs to wake up from its parallel reality, its slumber of neutral, impartial and independent “splendid isolation” – wake up and adapt to the realities of different value systems, political realities, growing remittance flows and real people.”

Agree? Feel free to contribute your own reflection.

Thomas Schwarz, Executive Secretary
Medicus Mundi International – Network Health for All

Recommended reading

Unacceptable. Board of Directors Cordaid, Kees Zevenbergen (chairman) and Willem Jan van Wijk, 16 February 2018,

The parallax view of the humanitarian world. Willem van de Put, ITM health policy unit

What’s it all about, Oxfam? Phil Vernon, 20 February 2018 in: Transformation

What’s to be done with Oxfam? part 2. Michael Edwards 15 February 2018, in: Transformation

Guardian coverage of the Oxfam case:

Devex coverage of the Oxfam case[]=Sexual+harassment


MMI Network: Events

Network event: medico international
The World Health Organization at the crossroads
Berlin, 21 March 2018

medico workshop as part of the Conference Poverty & Health. “Internal ambivalences of WHO pose questions that we want to discuss with our speakers: Did WHO itself create the conflict of interests by opening the doors to pharma and philanthrocapitalists and forgot to claim higher assessed (unrestricted) contributions from the member states? How can the role of WHO as the central Institution for Global Health Rights and Policies be resurrected? And is this indeed necessary and needed?“


Network event: Medicus Mundi Switzerland / MMI
Digital health, eHealth, mHealth: Breakthrough for public health or creating new dependency? A critical look at the current hype.
Geneva, 11 April 2018

In a satellite session to the Geneva Health Forum 2018 hosted by the Networks Medicus Mundi International and Medicus Mundi Switzerland, a panel of health systems and health technology experts looks behind the rhetoric of the Forum’s theme of “Precision Global Health in the Digital Age”. A call for contributions will soon be sent to MMI Network members.


Network event: Medicus Mundi Switzerland
Clinical Decision Support and Health Information Systems – Potential and Pitfalls of New Technologies
Basel, 25 April 2018

Swiss TPH Spring Symposium. "New technologies are progressively transforming health care delivery. In health facilities, point-of-care devices can support clinical personnel in the diagnosis and care of patients. At system level, health information tools help aggregate and visualise data thereby facilitating decision-making for managers and policy makers. The Spring Symposium 2018 invites health system professionals and students to share and review experiences of technology-enabled healthcare with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries.”


Network event: EPN
Promoting Patient Safety – Medications without Harm
Kampala, 15-18 May 2018

EPN Forum 2018. "The biennial EPN Forum is an opportunity for EPN members to meet in one place, learn, share knowledge, exchange experiences and best practices from their home countries. The theme for the EPN Forum 2018 is ‘Promoting Patient Safety – Medication without Harm’. The Forum taps into the third WHO Global Patient Safety Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to propose solutions that address the many obstacles the world faces to ensure the safety of medication practices. Medication harm to patients is an ongoing problem in many countries and not unique to lower and middle income countries (LMICs). Faith-based health facilities should take up the challenge to improve their patient’s safety through learning and knowledge sharing. The first step is attending the EPN Forum 2018."



MMI Network: News, reports, resources

Network paper: Wemos
Reaching parts that others can’t? The GFATM Heinecken case

Wemos, February 2018. “There is uproar in global health circles. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Dutch beer brewer HEINEKEN have entered into a partnership: HEINEKEN will pair supply chain experts with logistics planners at the Global Fund. HIV medication will thus reach their destination faster and in better condition, also covering the so-called ‘last mile’: those places in low- and middle-income countries that are notoriously hard to reach.”


Network paper: Cordaid
Towards a balanced rethinking of Performance-Based Financing

"Performance-based financing (PBF) in the health sector is a much debated topic. Some are overly critical, others overly enthusiastic. Cordaid PBF expert Maarten Oranje shows there’s more than this black and white picture. In which form, under which circumstances can PBF be transformative and change the lives of the most marginalized?"


Network paper: Health Poverty Action
Laying the foundations for a healthier world

“Millions of people – both across the world and in the UK – are denied this reality, thanks to the policy choices of those in power. Austerity, privatisation, tax dodging, unfair trade rules, climate change – these aren’t accidents. They are a result of policy choices often promoted by rich elites and corporations. The result is growing poverty, insecurity and sickness, and the destruction of our shared home on which we all rely. The only way to end poverty and inequality is to address its causes. That requires a new vision in which people across the world work in solidarity to tackle those responsible, and build a world in which all people have a fair share of wealth and power.


Network reporting: Wemos
Wemos: Our work from a bird’s-eye view

"In this 1,5-minutes film we explain what Wemos does to achieve a healthier world in which everyone has access to health care." (2018)


Network project: DWA Cuamm
The first 1000 Days for Mothers and Children

"Our commitment to improving the health of women and children in Africa is continuing, expanding, and deepening. The second phase of our program “Mothers and Children First” has started in all 7 countries and 10 hospitals where we work in sub-Saharan Africa."



Network projects
Network members: who works where?

MMI Network members (and their members) are invited to present an overview of their projects or individual project descriptions and reports in the "who works where" section of the MMI ePlatform.




Network Resource: MMI
mmi-cooperate: New tool for horizontal communication within the MMI Network

A new mailing list set up by the MMI secretariat is intended to facilitate horizontal communication among the members of the Medicus Mundi International Network engaged in international health cooperation. All MMI Network members are invited to use "mmi-cooperate" to inform their colleagues about current activities and events, to enquire about opportunities for collaboration, to share key publications and resources, or to launch a conversation on a particular technical or political topic. Interested? Please get in touch with the MMI Secretariat



Network Resource: ITM IHP
Switching the poles

Are you missing the monthly “MMI updates” on various topics? You should not. Please have a look at the great weekly newsletter produced by our new Network member, the ITM IHP Network. It might help you switching your poles, too.



MMI Network members: Please send us your eventual contributions for the MMI website (events, news, articles, resources) and the next issue of the newsletter!


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