PTF President Richard Stern addresses the OAFRESS General Assembly in Nouakchott on May 28, 2021.
What began as a unique opportunity to share lessons learned from their respective health crisis response programs has led to the creation of a new partnership between PTF and a peer organization in Sub-Saharan Africa. Representatives from PTF joined the tenth General Assembly of OAFRESS, a platform of eighteen national coalitions of civil society organizations (CSOs) active in health care.
Representatives from each of 18 OAFRESS’s participating National Coalitions of CSOs gathered in Nouakchott, Mauritania for the assembly, focused on addressing concrete health care challenges at the grassroots level. These CSOs focus specifically on strengthening health systems, immunization and vaccination in francophone countries of Sub-Saharan Africa.
PTF advisers and board members, including Pietronella van den Oever, Jean-Louis Sarbib, and Aileen Marshall joined the event virtually from Washington, DC. Richard Stern, PTF President, also participated and delivered an opening address.
While Stern and Sarbib discussed PTF and its experience in promoting good governance and transparency in health service delivery, the ensuing discussion facilitated an exchange of ideas among all participating organizations, each with their own experiences in the field of health sector emergency response.
OAFRESS members are not newcomers to the fight against a pandemic. Most of the representatives had earned their spurs in the raw reality of earlier epidemics, starting with HIV/AIDS, and traversing the entire gamma of Ebola, SARS, MERS, and the avian flu. In the process, they had lived through experiences and challenges at a scale that is rarely encountered by health specialists in other regions of the world.
The convergence of experiences, ideas, and collaborative solutions effectively laid the foundation for a budding partnership between OAFRESS and PTF. This new collaboration reinforces PTF’s aim to actively engage local CSOs in the growing effort to improve good governance and reduce waste in financial resources intended to accelerate development and improve global health.
By the conclusion of the conversation, the two organizations had established a foundation for their partnership, with a preliminary agenda to mutually share experiences and jointly develop high-quality communication tools. These tools will deliver pertinent arguments addressed to policymakers—as well as the wider public—to document the benefits of vaccination programs and other health care services.
In addition to its participation in the general assembly, PTF was invited to contribute a two-hour session on May 26, 2021, on Advocacy and Stakeholder Engagement, as part of a three-day workshop for OAFRESS Champions, prior to the General Assembly. This hands-on workshop aimed to help the participating Champions—representatives from several national CSO coalitions—develop new ideas to become more effective and better equipped to help diminish corruption and poor governance in the health sector in their respective countries. After this knowledge-sharing workshop, OAFRESS Champions reported that they would update their advocacy strategies to address the following immunization issues: (a) vaccine availability, (b) demand generation, (c) addressing vaccine equity in conflict related zones, and (d) combatting misinformation and disinformation on vaccines.
Further developments within the OAFRESS-PTF partnership, and potential joint activities in the coming two years, will be outlined in more details in the coming weeks.