Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All

"We are among Padua's treasures"

Probably better known as the city of St. Antony, Padua is one of the most important art cities in Italy, with its Medieval Walls, the great civil and the religious buildings the foundation of the University (1222), the second in Italy; Galileo Galilei taught here. This beautiful city guards many wonderful treasures, among them you can find our NGO, Doctors with Africa CUAMM, that hosted a MMI Annual General Assembly on 16th of November. That day was very nice and it is seen by all the members as a confirmation of CUAMM’s commitment of cooperation within the MMI Network.

Doctors with Africa CUAMM, founded in 1950 as the “University College for Aspiring Missionary Doctors”, is the first NGO in the field of healthcare to be recognised, in 1972, by the Italian Foreign Ministry, and as a not-for-profit organisation since 1997. It is part of Volunteers in the World – FOCSIV, the federation of Christian bodies providing voluntary service internationally. It is member of the Italian Association of NGOs and of Medicus Mundi International. It has a stable and recognised relationship with Unicef, and has subscribed the Red Cross International code of conduct. It is partner of ECHO, the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission. With strong Christian roots, Doctors with Africa CUAMM has always recognised the support and collaboration of organisations who have different religious leanings as a source of motivation and enrichment.

In Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, Doctors with Africa CUAMM is implementing several development programmes in partnership with local authorities and agencies to support the strengthening of the overall health systems in its three major pillars: hospitals, district health units and the community mainly in rural areas. All actions undertaken are fully integrated in the healthcare culture and social fabric of the country, through a continuous dialogue with the local public authorities and the religious institutions. Equity and accessibility to quality health services are among the main challenges for those who care for public health, development and human rights. We intend to contribute to this vision through two action lines:

  • Guaranteeing long term support to hospitals and territorial health services, supporting the coverage of services, running costs and providing capacity building for health staff
  • Supporting equal form of health system financing, built up on solidarity and risks sharing

Moving from this vision, projects aimed at specific areas (training, mother-and-child-care, disabilities etc), as well as so-called “vertical operations” intended to provide direct intervention against the great pandemics (AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria) are supported by a broad range of well-established long-term programmes. Programmes implemented in war-torn areas, or where humanitarian emergencies exist, which have only recently become part of the body’s operating environment, are developed in a two trucks way: providing immediate assistance and at the same time designing and elaborating longer term programmes together with the local health authorities. Doctors with Africa CUAMM has presently 56 principal active projects and several others minor interventions, 92 field operators to support 17 hospitals and 25 districts, 3 centre of rehabilitation for disability, 4 nursing schools and 3 universities.

CUAMM Partnership with MMI: Key issues

  • Strengthening the role of the Catholic
  • Church in health care in Europe and Africa
  • Lobby and advocacy vs. capacity building
  • Sharing knowledge, programs and projects
  • Sharing common problems: i.e. Human Resources

Our priority sectors in the improvement of health services system are maternal and child health care, disability and fight against the big pandemics (AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria). Major activities promoted are service delivery; capacity building and empowerment.

Basic Criteria for CUAMM Projects

  • Developing roots: An active presence is maintained in those countries where our working experience is longer, in order to make the most of our knowledge of the local realities and of the relationships we have developed through time, and in order to better concentrate our efforts (through increased efficiency and negotiating capacity).
  • Human resources: training activities are developed to give African staff the opportunity to strengthen their professional and managerial capabilities. This is congruous with our original aim of building direct relationships.
  • Emerging needs: we intervene in areas of greatest health need, with the aim of facilitating the health system to be sustained by local resources.
  • Integration between public and private not-for-profit sectors: we continue pursuing our choice to support private non-profit health structures in order to favour their accessibility to all, at the same time contributing to their integration with the public health system which, as Doctors with Africa CUAMM believes, has a fundamental role in the promotion of health and in planning of each country health services.
  • Planning and financial autonomy: Our commitment to independence and autonomy is safeguarded by our focus on cooperation and on the local healthcare policies. In a continent like Africa where, more than in any other area in the world, people are challenged by enormous barriers – above all economic and geographical ones – in order to have access to the health services, the principles of accessibility and equal opportunity are carefully considered in all our activities and projects.
  • To Communicate: Health and Development. This magazine appears every four months and examines cooperation and healthcare policy, with three issues in Italian and one in English, each with between 90 and 100 pages. Established 15 years ago as an internal newsletter providing updates on the various projects, it was given its current title in 1999 and, in 2001, its current format. Increasingly in demand among research institutes, doctors, and students preparing their theses, it provides detailed information on international problems and topics

Our Vision of the future

  • Understanding the value of MDGs
  • Focusing on the health system at district level
  • Being updated with scientific evidence
  • Helping ‘beneficiaries’ to become actors
  • Understanding that without results we are not believable
  • Realizing that we cannot do anything by ourselves

...which leads us back to or firm commitment to be a strong and well integrated member of the Medicus Mundi International Network.

(16TH NOVEMBER 2007, MMI ASSEMBLY IN PADUA: “WE ARE AMONG PADUA’S TREASURES”. Giovanni Putoto, Doctors with Africa CUAMM, MMI Board Member, in: MMI Annual Report 2007)

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