In line with its global strategy for tackling the pandemic, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has launched a new €9 million programme in East Africa with funding from the European Union. The programme will focus on strengthening responses to the health, social and economic challenges COVID-19 continues to raise in four countries – Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.
With the spread of the pandemic accelerating in recent months across Africa, many countries’ existing health systems have struggled to keep up, particularly as the virus travels into more rural areas where access to healthcare and up-to-date information on prevention is more limited. If COVID-19 is not checked, the long-term social and economic effects on the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in East Africa could be devastating.
The 30-month, multi-sector programme will help strengthen existing health responses and increase awareness of prevention strategies and support mechanisms, while also minimising the socio-economic impact of the crisis among the young and vulnerable. Funded by the European Union, it will be implemented by three AKDN agencies – the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) and the Aga Khan University (AKU) – alongside partner organisation, In Their Hands (ITH).
In partnership with East African governments, AKDN’s networks of clinicians and facilities will support health systems to respond effectively, including through the provision of PPE, testing kits and other medical equipment, and training health workers on COVID-19 response and management. Given the significant psychosocial impact of the pandemic, AKU will also address emerging mental health needs among health workers and young people.
Gender-based violence and levels of psychosocial distress have risen across the globe, in many cases as a direct result of COVID-19.
At a grassroots level, AKF will work with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to strengthen communities’ ability to prevent and respond to COVID-19. This includes identifying and prioritising community needs, providing rapid response funds to CSOs to meet emerging needs, and disseminating messaging on prevention and protection to vulnerable groups. The CSOs are also encouraged to share stories of hope that promote solidarity during these difficult times within their communities.
Young people have been disproportionately affected by the socio-economic shocks brought about by pandemic. Gender-based violence and levels of psychosocial distress have risen across the globe, in many cases as a direct result of COVID-19. AKDN will work with partner organisation In Their Hands to address these challenges. ITH’s digital platform will help adolescents and young people – in particular, young women and girls – to access sexual and reproductive health services and livelihoods skills training. AKF will also engage with young people through remote design sessions to develop innovative business solutions that meet immediate, medium, and long-term community needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is anticipated that 140,000 individuals or 30,000 households will be supported with a variety of coping strategies to help them weather the pandemic.
Central to the way AKDN works is to ensure that the work is context-specific and has community buy-in and active participation. Engaging with CSOs (who are at the centre of community interventions), government departments and existing health systems is critical to success. By nurturing ownership, there is far greater chance that the work carried out in response to these difficult circumstances will be sustainable in the long run and benefit communities now and into the future.
The ‘AKDN Regional Eastern Africa COVID-19 Response Partnership’ is a 30-month, €9,373,284 programme jointly funded by the European Union and the Aga Khan Foundation. It is being jointly implemented in four countries in East Africa – Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda – by the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Health Services, and their partner, In Their Hands (alongside their strategic partners, CIFF and Triggerise). It aims to strengthen health system resilience and support communities to respond to the shocks of the pandemic.