Another Funder Stepping Forward to Bolster Africa's Public Health System

The Ebola epidemic exposed some appalling public health realities in Africa. When the disease surfaced last year, Liberia had 51 doctors for its 4.2 million people. With a population of 6 million, Sierra Leone had 136 doctors. That country’s only virologist, Dr. Umar Khan, was killed by the disease.

Overall, sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most vulnerable region for diseasea fact that explains why the Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded a grant of $2.6 million not long ago to the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC).

The funds will go to enhancing postgraduate training and research in public health and population studies for the nine universities participating in the Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa (CARTA)led by the APHRC and the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Public Health. The award is intended to address critical training shortfalls with the enrollment of 91 fellows. The grant’s support runs through the end of March 2017.

One challenge in addressing the region's health needs is cultivating local expertise sensitive to native mores. Although many non-governmental agencies descended on West Africa to combat Ebola, including Doctors without Borders and the World Health Organization, fear and mistrust of outsiders hampered the effectiveness of the response to the disease, even leading to the brutal murder of eight health workers in Guinea.

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, APHRC is a think tank that conducts rigorous evidence-based research that can be relied upon by policy makers who are dealing with issues of “population, health, education, urbanization and related development issues across Africa.” APHRC emphasizes strategic communications and policy engagement. It publishes a slew of informative publications on a range of issues, from analyzing prostitution in Malawi’s slums to the links between alcohol consumption and HIV infection 

Over the past few years, the Carnegie Corporation has spent big in Africa, emphasizing education and libraries along with the African Peacekeeping Network as it seeks to carry out the mandate of its founder, industrialist Andrew Carnegie, to do “real and permanent good.”