Koursia Mahamadou is one of the beneficiaries of the Save the Children feeding program in Niger. The nongovernmental organization has partnered with GlaxoSmithKline to tackle child deaths. Photo by: Nyani Quarmyne / Save the Children / GlaxoSmithKline / CC BY

Save the Children and GlaxoSmithKline are strengthening their partnership to tackle child deaths. Their first stop: the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

The nongovernmental organization and the pharmaceutical giant announced Thursday (May 9) a five-year partnership, building on the relationship the two organizations have developed for years. It came on the heels of a short trip to a remote health clinic in Kenya.

The partnership will involve work on a number of projects, including:

  • Making available an antiseptic normally used in mouthwash for umbilical cord cleansing that will help reduce newborn infections.

  • Developing an antibiotic in powder form and is safe for children in a bid to fight pneumonia.

  • Researching a low-cost product that will help fight malnutrition.

It will also aim to expand vaccination coverage in remote areas with the help of SMS technology and boost the number of health workers, whose shortfall is adding to the burden of newborn and maternal deaths in many developing countries.

Save the Children will have a seat at a research and development board being set up by GSK.

Both organizations expect to shell a total of 15 million pounds ($23.2 million) for the collaboration. GSK aims to encourage its employees to take part in the partnership by raising 1 million pounds a year, an amount the corporation said it will match.

The scheme comes amid increasing participation of private sector companies in international development, with many of them engaging with government institutions. Though not the first, this partnership between a private company and an NGO is rare, largely due to opposing views and practices. For instance, Save the Children was among the organizations that used to criticize GSK for its expensive anti-HIV drugs.

Save the Children CEO Justin Forsyth said he “enormously” respects the leadership of GSK chief Andrew Witty, but noted he would not hesitate from again calling on the company to lower its drug prices.

“GlaxoSmithKline has changed enormously … but we [still] don’t agree on everything,” he told the Guardian.

Witty meanwhile said he hopes the partnership “sets a new standard for how companies and NGOs can work together towards a shared goal.”

The partners will set up flagship programs in DRC and Kenya, outcomes of which will be the basis of future programs in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.