For over four years, the Health Systems Advocacy Partnership (HSAP) has been dedicated to improving the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of people in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Now, as the Partnership draws to a close, partners have had the opportunity to reflect on the progress made and, most importantly, the sustainability of the HSAP’s work on health systems strengthening.
On October 22, 2020, the Partners – ACHEST, AMREF, HAI, and WEMOS held a virtual end-of-program conference under the theme After HSA: Ensuring the Sustainability of Health Systems Strengthening
More than 80 representatives from civil HSA in-country partners, local CSOs, local ministries of health, media in focus countries, and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign affairs participated in the meeting.
A series of breakout sessions provided space for the HSA Partners and other stakeholders to share some of the key lessons from across a range of topics and ideas on how to maintain the drive towards health systems strengthening post-2020.
ACHEST’s Dr. David Okello was the lead speaker for the session on good governance for health systems. He gave an evidence-based presentation on ACHEST’s work on global good governance and global health diplomacy; how intersectoral collaboration for health is a game-changer in Ngora district where ACHEST has implemented a pilot project. As a result of this work, Uganda has launched a Community Engagement Strategy for COVID-19 response. The objective of the strategy is to ensure that all people in Uganda are aware, empowered, and actively participating in the prevention and control of the #COVID19. The ACHEST Executive Director, Prof. Francis Omaswa was also appointed to lead the development of Community Engagement Strategy whose main thrust is the establishment of village community task forces under the local leadership and guidance of the Village Health Teams. The operationalization of the strategy will borrow strongly from ACHEST’s intersectoral collaboration work in Ngora model in Eastern Uganda.
“Other countries should copy our example. This is something we are proud to be associated with,” said Dr. Okello, and expressed optimism that the COVID19 response should leave Uganda’s health system much stronger and better prepared to achieve SDGs.
Other sessions presented by partners were: on the importance of research and how findings can continue to have an impact even after the program has ended; availability and affordability of SRH commodities as an essential pillar of health systems strengthening; Sustained financing of human resources for health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; and Global Financing Facility and the relevance, opportunities, and challenges of global advocacy.
Much of this work would not have been known without the media. Thus a session was held on media advocacy as a strategic avenue to advance shape public debate, and implore policymakers to act.
The strong message from these discussions was that although the HSAP has ended, its work will live on for generations.
In his keynote address, AMREF’S Director of Regional Programs Prof Joachim Osur remembered with nostalgia the tough and great moments during the period of the partnership.
“We had various approaches through technical support, through lobbying and capacity building. We supported decision-makers to act. We trained in civil society. We were in communities and we worked with media. We have done massive work in the four years as a partnership,” said Prof. Osur.
He added: “Nothing stands in the way of mature partnership. COVID-19 came but it did not stop us from moving. The network, contacts, and community strengthening we had created became so handy in solving the emerging challenges.”
During the conference, partners launched a video explaining why strong health stems matter, not only to tackle COVID-19 but also to achieve health for all and SRHR needs. The video is available on YouTube: https://buff.ly/3jqXeRj