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All for Health, Health for All: Collaboration Fuels Progress in Community Health

May 30, 2024

The global community is convening this week in Geneva, Switzerland for the 77th World Health Assembly. This year’s theme, All for health, health for all, underscores that achieving universal health coverage requires collaboration, which is a cornerstone of Africa Frontline First’s work. Indeed, Africa Frontline First’s dynamic partnership with the Global Fund and 11 African countries—which has mobilized $219 million to strengthen community health programs—is a testament to what’s possible when we work collaboratively. 

Photo credit: Living Goods. Representatives of Global Fund, Africa Frontline First and Living Goods on a field visit to Burkina Faso to check progress of Project BIRCH

Photo credit: Living Goods. Representatives of Global Fund, Africa Frontline First and Living Goods on a field visit to Burkina Faso to check progress of Project BIRCH

Community health workers are essential to achieving universal health coverage and are proven to improve access to primary healthcare, but financing remains the largest obstacle to scaling this workforce to the full extent needed. Notably, there is a US $4.4 billion annual funding gap for community health in Africa. This means too many patients still go without access to this workforce and the lifesaving services they deliver.

Africa Frontline First exists to change that and has made exciting progress in unlocking more funding for national community health priorities through a partnership called the Building Integrated Resilience for Community Health (BIRCH) Project, launched in 2023. It provides targeted technical assistance to support national governments in five key areas: financing for long-term sustainability, human resources for health, leadership and governance, digital health, and supply chain. Leveraging funding from the Global Fund COVID-19 Response Mechanism (C19RM), the project aims to strengthen the foundations of community health platforms that detect and prevent outbreaks, strengthen access to primary healthcare services, and sustain outcomes for HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.  

Currently, the partnership operates across 11 African countries, supporting ministries of health and in-country implementing partners (including Financing Alliance for Health, Integrate Health, Last Mile Health, Living Goods, and Muso Health) to identify and execute priority interventions aligned to their national community health strategies.

Photo Credit: Financing Alliance for Health. Representatives of Financing Alliance for Health & Africa Frontline First visit communities in Zambia and interacts with community health workers.

Photo Credit: Financing Alliance for Health. Representatives of Financing Alliance for Health & Africa Frontline First on a field visit to communities in Zambia, and interacts with community health workers.

To date, this partnership unlocked $219 million USD in financing from the Global Fund to strengthen community health programs for 11 countries. This will support 164,000 community health workers to reach over 143 million people across Africa. In Zambia, for instance, the government unlocked $27 million USD to support the country’s community health program. This funding ensures that community health workers receive adequate training, compensation, and digital tools, thereby enhancing their effectiveness in serving their communities. 

The gains made at the country level extend to the regional level. The partnership supported the launch of Africa CDC’s Continental Coordinating Mechanism for community health in November 2023. This initiative brings together African Union Member States and community health stakeholders for the institutionalization, integration, and sustainability of community health worker programs in Africa. As a partner to this initiative, Africa Frontline First will share learnings, experiences, and best practices from this partnership with other member states in order to contribute to more effective standardized and coordinated community health programs across Africa.

This work is just getting started. Fueled by the initial progress, the partnership is expanding to reach a total of 23 countries in 2024. Not only will this contribute to stronger, government-led community health programs, but it also exemplifies the power of coordinated efforts among donors, governments, implementers, and community health workers. Achieving health for all is within reach when we work together.