The Global Fund has announced a new catalytic fund to support community health workers across 10 African countries.
The Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund (AFF-CF) will provide financing to accelerate and sustain the scale-up of frontline community health workers, the backbone of community health services.
The Global Fund welcomes the first investments to the Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation and the Skoll Foundation totalling $25 million. The Global Fund intends to match these and other investments to bolster support to and domestic financing for community health workers.
These pledges come ahead of the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment, which aims to raise $18 billion to fund its next three-year cycle of grants. The Global Fund estimates that the funding of $18 billion would save 20 million lives, while strengthening health and community systems to reinforce pandemic preparedness.
“For the first time in 20 years, many countries have seen HIV, TB and malaria cases worsen and community health workers are at the forefront of fighting these diseases. This is a unique moment for leaders to join forces and invest in the people and structures that will fight pandemics, infectious diseases, and other health threats, now and in the future” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of The Global Fund.
A professionalized workforce of community health workers, who work hand in hand with communities, is key to responding to future outbreaks and making gains on long standing priorities. The Global Fund applauds these initial pledges from the Johnson & Johnson Foundation and the Skoll Foundation, but much more financial investment is needed to unlock the full potential and to ensure people access to professionalized, trained, compensated, and integrated community health workers.
The Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund will help ensure that up to 10 African countries accelerate progress and improve health care delivered at the community level, as well as crucially ensure the women, who make up the large proportion of community health workers, are properly paid for their work.
The Catalytic Fund will combine coordinated technical assistance and implementation funding, as well as investments to scale financing, employ digital tools, increase the availability of essential life-saving commodities, and better integrate community health workers within the overall health system.
“Health workers are the cornerstone of care. By training, empowering, and integrating community health workers into existing health systems it’s possible to extend care and reduce the burden of disease for millions of people,” said Joaquin Duato, CEO of Johnson & Johnson. “The Johnson & Johnson Foundation committed $15 million to the Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund to ensure delivery of effective, efficient, and equitable care at the frontlines.”
The Global Fund Catalytic Fund approach has already shown the power of leveraging philanthropic funding. For example, support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation for HIV self-testing has increased funding fivefold in two years and increased HIV self-test procurement from thousands to millions in the five countries where it works.
“On the frontlines of pandemic response and prevention, community health workers are critical to bringing essential healthcare to the last mile,” said Don Gips, CEO of the Skoll Foundation. “The Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund brings the power of social innovators like the Financing Alliance for Health and Last Mile Health together with the strength of the Global Fund to ensure that community health workers are paid, trained, and equipped to maintain essential services and lead responses to COVID-19, Ebola, and other outbreaks.”
This catalytic investment is a first step towards a broader shared ambition to scale community health, contributing to expanding universal health coverage. As part of this effort, Africa Frontline First is collaborating with the COVID-19 Commission, which supports H.E. President Ramaphosa in his role as the African Union Champion on COVID-19. In line with the African Union’s New Public Health Order, this collaboration pursues the AU’s broader target of deploying 2 million community health workers by 2030.
More than 85% of community health workers in Africa, the majority of whom are women, are not paid for their work. Experience shows that professional community health workers – who are paid, trained, and supervised – are best equipped to provide essential health services in their communities, even amid great challenges.
“In Liberia and around the world, we have seen the power of community health workers to deliver essential care in rural and remote communities – and to maintain that care during crises like the Ebola epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former President of Liberia. “The Africa Frontline First Catalytic Fund is a unique opportunity to invest in those health workers and catalyze real change, creating a healthier and safer world for all.”