GE Foundation Continues to Power Up Healthcare Efforts in Africa

Among the biggest announcements made at the first U.S.-Africa’s Leaders Summit was the GE Foundation’s $20 million commitment to achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) four and five.

MDGs four and five are simple in theory—reduce the global mortality rates of children under five by two-thirds and the maternal mortality rate by three-quarters. Through its Developing Health Globally program, the GE Foundation has been working toward those goals for quite some time. The program aims to improve healthcare delivery, patient outcomes and improve the quality of life in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Its latest $20 million lift toward MDGs four and five, however, will focus exclusively on Africa.

GE will go about improving maternal and infant mortality in Africa by focusing its efforts on training biomedical equipment technicians, providing anesthesia training for nurses, working on safe water solutions in health care facilities and figuring out ways to deliver oxygen in facilities that are low on resources, like electricity, for instance.

The biomedical technician training portion of the gift looks to address the estimated 70 percent of medical and lab equipment in Sub-Saharan Africa that is out of commission or at the very least, glitchy. GE actually began biomed device training back in 2009 through its Biomedical Equipment Training (BMET) program, which launched in Rwanda. The BMET program was later expanded to Ghana, Honduras, and Cambodia.

Related: GE Foundation: Grants for Global Health

Though GE, the company, does manufacture a lot of healthcare equipment, the goal of this program will not be to provide new machines, it will instead focus on repairing the existing equipment with the resources available at local hospitals. Sometimes, that’s not much.

The foundation is collaborating with Developing World Healthcare Technology Lab at Duke and Engineering World Health to introduce the BMET program to Nigerian healthcare facilities. Speaking of biomedical equipment, it’s a pretty necessary component in the administration of anesthesia, which is next on the GE Foundation’s $20 million agenda.

The Improving Perioperative and Anesthetic Care Training in East Africa, or ImPACT will provide anesthesia training for nurses in Western Kenya. Among the scarce resources in many African hospitals, properly trained anesthetist practitioners is one of them, adequate oxygen supplies is another one.

Related: Surgery in Africa is a Crapshoot: A Big Grant by the GE Foundation Aims to Change That

The GE Foundation will work with Kenyan and Rwandan governments to establish scalable oxygen supply systems for rural hospitals. In the meantime, the ImPACT program will also build capacity for future anesthesia trainers and develop a sustainable and scalable nurse anesthetist educational package. Education is also related to the next mission on GEs list: girls’ education.

The final leg of GEs $20 million give to Africa centers on girls’ education. The foundation already has a program in place that provides scholarships, girls’ mentoring, and professional training and development for teachers. In this latest venture, GE has partnered with the African Leadership Academy to develop the Finalist Camp and Scholars Program, which aims to groom the next generation of African leaders.