Networking / working with Government: BHVI Nigeria

Standard Chartered Banks’s Seeing is Believing project in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is an example of how a cooperative partnership between multiple stakeholders can result in successful and sustainable eye health services for communities desperately in need.

As a comprehensive eye care project which strives to deliver effective, safe, high quality interventions (including prevention, diagnosis, management and low vision rehabilitation) to the urban slums of Kubwa, Kuje and AMAC with continuity of care across levels of care, settings and providers.

As it was unlikely that a single organization or government structure would ever be able to achieve these ambitious goals unaided, a partnership between the funder, Standard Chartered Bank, the implementing partners, Brien Holden Vision Institute and Sightsavers and government was needed.

In fact, such was the support required by the Nigerian Government that the Ministries of Health (Hospital and Public Health Divisions) and Education (Basic Education and Secondary Education Divisions) and the Local Government Council all needed to collaborate as major implementing partners. Each contribute to a different target area of the Project, while working cooperatively to achieve the main Project goal.

Previously, a public eye care facility was non-existent in Kubwa. It was through the strengthening of Government systems that this achievement was possible. The Government supported and co-financed the extensive renovation work and transformed the former male ward and annexes into the facility that now houses the Kubwa eye centre.

Two budget lines were created as a result of the project; this enabled a full-time ophthalmologist to be employed and allowed for the continuing support to community and primary eye health services at the grassroots level.

FCT, created only in 1976 witnessed a sudden influx of people in search of greener pastures. This resulted in overstretched social amenities and systems which were barely established and could not cope with the high volumes. As SIB was the first comprehensive eye-care project initiated in the Federal Capital Territory, it was not surprising that partners encountered challenges:

·  Inherent parallel structure of ministries in implementation and reporting.

·  Competing programmes requiring attention of the partners.

·  Limited time for Government to incorporate the new project into their existing plans and schedule.

·  The consequences of these challenges were inadequate staff numbers, insufficient space and poor skills to achieve the project’s goal.

However the challenges above are being addressed and this is made possible by the partnership strategy adopted for this project. At the beginning of the project, all stakeholders in eye health including professional bodies, NGOs who constituted the local VISION2020 committee were invited to participate in the Project’s implementation workshop. Outcomes of the workshop informed the sharing of roles and responsibilities.

Through continuous engagement, involvement and active participation, desk officers for eye care were appointed by Health, Education Secretariat and Local Government Council. The desk officers are involved in supervision, monitoring and reporting to their various departments.

Despite the challenges this project is an example of a good outcome of multi sectorial partnership. Community participation and ownership fostered good working relations amongst partners enabling the project to deal with challenges and achieve the desired outcomes.

Dr. Anne Ebri

Sub-regional manager for West Africa