Members of United Methodist health boards in 15 countries participate with UMCOR and Imagine No Malaria personnel in a broad health consultation.
By Julia Kayser*
August 24, 2012—The third Pan-Africa Summit was held in Accra, Ghana, this month. This was an opportunity for United Methodist health boards of fifteen African countries to share ideas and receive training.
Health boards are responsible for identifying health-care priorities, envisioning solutions, and monitoring the progress of various projects in their countries. This event—hosted by UMCOR and sponsored by Imagine No Malaria— brought doctors, community health workers, local leaders, educators, and program coordinators together.
Nyamah Dunbar, executive grant officer of Imagine No Malaria, coordinated the weeklong event. She said that because “travel on the African continent is always sporadic and unpredictable,” her biggest challenge was the logistics of getting everyone in one place. However, her efforts paid off. She saw a high level of participation in each training session, which “affirmed our goal of creating a learning environment for creative exchanges,” she indicated.
Taneal Kamuzungu is a special projects manager for UMCOR’s Zimbabwe field office. As a participant at the Pan-Africa Summit, she said that one of the most interesting parts of the meeting was a presentation from UMCOR’s Ted Warnock. Warnock encouraged each of the fifteen health boards to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in their countries. Kamuzungu said that recognizing “the challenges most health boards are facing and possible solutions” was very helpful.
UMCOR’s Melissa Crutchfield led another favorite session. “We got to learn how UMCOR responds to disaster,” reported Kamuzungu. This background information, it is hoped, will lead to more effective partnerships. Learning UMCOR’s system allowed participants to identify their own roles in disaster response. “It was an eye-opener,” said Kamuzungu. “We will have to go educate more people.”
Additional training sessions focused on budgeting, baseline assessments, online grant applications, monitoring and evaluation, and working with volunteers. “Following each day’s meetings, members could be seen discussing the daily topics and making new friends,” said Warnock. He indicated that he sees great promise in these new professional partnerships. Different countries often have more in common than they realize, so collective problem-solving is very effective.
Another important goal of the Pan-Africa Summit was to encourage health boards to apply for grant funding. UMCOR always aims to “inspire sustainability and local program ownership,” said Shannon Trilli, executive director of Global Health Initiatives for UMCOR. “The Pan-Africa Summit gives us an opportunity to follow up where those grants have been awarded and make sure the health boards have the support and training they need in budgeting, communication, and program planning to maximize their effectiveness and, ultimately, save lives.”
This year’s Pan-Africa Summit was a great success. Nyamah Dunbar said she even got requests for the event to happen twice each year! “The annual health forum is a necessity to ensure the continual quality of work and programming offered by UMCOR and our partners in Africa,” she affirmed.
You can support UMCOR’s work in the field of global health with your gift to Hospital Systems Strengthening, UMCOR Advance #982168
*Julia Kayser is a writer and regular contributor to www.umcor.org