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Equipping Countries to Unlock More Financing for Integrated Community Health Programs: The Story of Zambia

Apr 3, 2024

Through the National Community Health Strategy, Zambia has committed to improving access to health services at the community level and ensuring that community health workers are skilled and equipped. However, financing remains the primary obstacle to realizing this vision. There is not only inadequate funding for the community health strategy overall, but also the existing funding is fragmented meaning it often targets a specific disease like malaria or HIV, rather than an integrated package of services. 

Launch of Community Health strategic documents

Zambia is not alone in facing these challenges, as many African countries are unable to unlock the full potential of their community health strategies or programs due to financing. To expand funding available for community health, the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (Global Fund) launched a targeted funding stream that reinvests COVID-19 funds to strengthen community health programs in ten countries, called the Building Integrated Resilience for Community Health (BIRCH) Project.

Africa Frontline First is a key partner in Project BIRCH,  providing technical support to the ten countries to access resources from the Global Fund and accompanying governments to utilize the funds for impactful community health priorities. In each of the ten countries, Africa Frontline First has identified an in-country implementing partner with deep experience in community health and the country context to collaborate on the project — including Financing Alliance for Health, Integrate Health, Last Mile Health, Living Goods, and Muso Health. 

Zambia’s Community Health Milestones Through Project BIRCH

In Zambia, Africa Frontline First and Financing Alliance for Health worked with the Ministry of Health to unlock financing for a strong community health program. Together, the partnership achieved: 

Financing

  • Unlocked US $12.6 million in funding to support the recruitment and deployment of community health volunteers. Additionally, it will enhance integrated supervision, upgrade information systems, and strengthen supply chains, contributing to a stronger community health program.

Strengthening Community Health Policies & Guidelines

  • Contributed to the costing of the National Community Health Strategy, setting the vision and strategy for the country’s community health program. 
  • Contributed to the revised community health investment case to mobilize additional funding to sustain and grow the national community health program.
  • Contributed to the development of the Community Health Workers Logistics System standard operating procedures manual, which guides the management of commodities at the community level.

 Strengthening Advocacy for Community Health at the National & Community Level

  • Provided technical assistance in the development of the  Zambia Community Health Advocacy and Resource Mobilization Strategy
  • Supported a convening with 41 Members of Parliament to enhance political prioritization on community health 
Figure 2 Lands Minister, Defense Minister and Health Minister During the Scorecard sensitization meeting Photo Credit: ZANIS

Lands Minister, Defense Minister and Health Minister During the Scorecard sensitization meeting Photo Credit: ZANIS

  • Supported the development of The Community Score Card Jingle to create awareness, promote participation, and celebrate the impact of the Community Score Card within communities. These jingles were successfully aired on radio stations across 10 provinces. 

Christopher Zimba, Community Health Technical Advisor with the Zambia Ministry of Health, underscores the impact of the partnership. “BIRCH has brought finances to implement most of the activities that had been planned for and prioritized but lacked finances,” he said. “The technical assistance being provided has helped to build capacity for the community health team such as developing an investment case for community health and costing of activities during the Global Fund Application.” 

Looking Ahead 

Looking forward , Africa Frontline First will continue  supporting the Ministry of Health in Zambia with Financing Alliance for Health under Project BIRCH expansion. Priorities include: 

  • Providing technical assistance to implement the priorities outlined in the Community Health Strategy.
  • Crafting a policy framework for harmonized compensation to community health volunteers.
  • Rolling out the delivery of an integrated comprehensive package of services, encompassing community-based surveillance among other vital components.

By unlocking financing and technical expertise, Project BIRCH is a catalyst for transformative change in the community health system, propelling Zambia closer to its aspirations to deploy salaried, supervised, and skilled community health workers to provide primary healthcare at the community level.