Working With Ngos In A Consortium Child Eye Health Project, The Kenya Experience

Background to Child Eye Health

Child Eye Health was identified as a gap in the prevention blindness by the Ophthalmic Services Unit, then the Division of Ophthalmic Services (Ministry of Health) during a Strategic Planning for the Unit in Kenya. However, the unit was faced with many challenges in providing eye health as it relied on meagre resources in HRD, equipment and consumables.

The SIB initiative called for proposals for child eye health in East Africa to provide comprehensive eye care and several eye care NGOs expressed interest in the programme. The idea of forming a consortium of organizations was conceived and two consortia were formed namely: – Brien Holden Vision Institute and Christofel Blinden Mission (CBM).

In this project, Brien Holden Vision Institute consortium provides the primary eye care in the primary health facilities while CBM provides the clinical services at the secondary levels and tertiary.

The strength of working as a consortium

Upon formation of the two Consortia, the organizations worked out partnership modalities. They developed and signed M.O.U s between the consortia as well as amongst organizations. As experience from this project has shown, working in a consortium has the following strengths.

a) It has enabled greater geographical coverage of eye care services for children.

b) Exchange of expertise. Each organization has its significant contribution based on their strength and it is upon this that the consortium stands firm. Some are good in Primary Care Services others in surgeries so when brought together they formed a more productive team.

c) The organizations are implementing ChEH in areas where they are working in other programs thus they do not need to form new relationships which would have consumed more time.

d) All organization have individuals country offices with staff. The project has therefore relied on this human resource available with little need to employ many new program staff or creating physical offices for child eye health project.

e) Greater collaboration between MOH and organization within the consortia has been achieved since they are all dependent on each other. The level of consultation has increased as portrayed in joint consortia meetings.

Challenges of coordinating a consortium

1. Organizations have different organizational policies regarding reporting, budgeting, among others. This poses challenges in trying to achieve the objectives of ChEH and work within these policies. However, consultative meetings have been held so as to get the modalities of operation.

2. The ministries of health and education are partners in child eye health. Their participation, commitment and contribution follow a rigorous bureaucracy which sometimes delays progress. This has often called for persistent follow up.

3. Initially there was a lot of suspicion among organizations especially in budget and activities allocation. This due is to the fact that the consortium was a new concept and organization were seemingly not certain of how to operate in a consortium. It therefore became necessary for organizations to consult more often.

4. Lethargy. This is brought by the fact that no individual organization is individually responsible of neither success nor failures of the project or the coordinator. Some organizations tend to portray superiority over others which does not work well.

5. Existence of other competing programs running parallel to child eye health. Sometimes the organizations tend to pay more attention to their other programs making coordination for ChEH a bit difficult.

The challenges not withstanding there is a lot of strength in numbers, so consortium is a more productive way of providing eye health.

Gladwell Wanjiru

CEH Project Coordinator, Kenya