The power of 'we': Partnering for a healthier world

Women in the village of Golo Sodoma, Ethiopia receive free bed nets in a UNICEF distribution campaign. Photo by: Gates Foundation / CC BY-NC-ND

Growing up in Soweto, Johannesburg, during apartheid in South Africa, I dreamed of the day when all would be equal under law and I committed to making it a reality, for myself and others.

My vision was shared by many. Our journey was difficult, at times seemingly impossible. Our fight for a better, more fair and equitable future drew all our blood, sweat and tears. Apartheid was defeated not only through hard work and determination but was won with the power of WE — families, friends, people across the nation and from the greater international community that collectively dared to stand up for what was right and inspired within each other the courage to take hold of our individual and collective dreams.

For me, the power of WE is the life force behind partnerships, and it has fueled some of the greatest positive changes we’ve seen in our time, particularly where global health and development are concerned.

Since 2007, I have been goodwill ambassador for the Roll Back Malaria partnership, the global framework that was founded in 1998 by UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank to coordinate action against malaria. RBM is a special kind of partnership, a public-private partnership. Through my work with RBM, I have seen the power of partnerships — and PPPs particularly — to unlock potential and transform communities.

PPPs bring unique strengths to the table, and they will continue to play an enormous role in the global health and development space as we traverse this critical transition between the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 sustainable development goals. I believe PPPs offer an exemplary model by which to implement our priorities moving forward because of four unique characteristics:

1. PPPs promote effectiveness and accountability

Someone once referred to PPPs as the “Golden Triangle” — the intersection of governments, civil society and the private sector. PPPs require an honest assessment of the expertise, resources and strengths available and the ability to leverage each other’s comparative advantage.

This is particularly important in these times of financial austerity, when we are called to do more with less. To ensure financial and programmatic effectiveness, partners with particular expertise will sometimes be called to play a leading role and at other times a supporting one. This dance among partners will reinforce accountability, effective use of resources and greater transparency.

2. PPPs break down silos

When a pregnant woman goes to a maternity ward, her challenges often start when she steps out the door of her home. Her trek to the clinic may require she leave her young children behind in the care of others, walk miles at times on uneven roads, and quench her thirst at local rest stations from potentially contaminated wells. Cross-sector collaboration within countries must tackle health challenges like safe childbirth. PPPs help tackle these challenges head-on and holistically by building up infrastructure, increasing access to quality sanitation facilities and even bringing services closer to the community, among others.

In southern Africa, for instance, the private sector has partnered with the government in a PPP that has played a major role in cross-border collaboration between neighboring countries Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland to reduce malaria burden in the Lumombo region and improve the health and economic viability of the region, promoting tourism and allowing industries to thrive.

3. PPPs encourage creativity and innovation

Through a partnership with the Confederation of African Football, RBM’s United Against Malaria campaign has leveraged the power of football to reach more than a billion Africans with lifesaving malaria education messages through tournament media and promotional opportunities, including engagement of prominent celebrities and football icons, heads of state and dignitaries during the 2013 Orange African Cup of Nations.

This is just one example of many that showcase the innovation and creative thinking possible when partners from all spaces and sectors come together with a common goal.

And finally, I want to highlight a characteristic of partnerships that I believe to be of utmost importance.

4. Partnerships provide a means to attain a goal beyond our individual reach

As an artist, my music is not only a reflection of heart but also of my band mates and the inspiration I draw from others. It is the merging of our creativity that produces something greater than ourselves; in harmony and in rhythm, we can take the listener on a journey and inspire hope. As they say, the sum is truly greater than the individual parts.

Though we are in a time of transition, I find inspiration and hope in the forthcoming sustainable development goals. Yes, they are aspirational, but they give us a glimpse of what the world can be if we work in partnership.

The journey ahead will be difficult, but I know that together, we can eliminate poverty and make preventable global health threats like malaria a thing of the past. Let us join together more boldly than ever and do it.

Want to learn more? Check out the Healthy Means campaign site and tweet us using #HealthyMeans.

Healthy Means is an online conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with Concern Worldwide, Gavi, GlaxoSmithKline, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Johnson & Johnson and the United Nations Population Fund to showcase new ideas and ways we can work together to expand health care and live better lives.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Yvonne Chaka Chaka

    Yvonne Chaka Chaka, global goodwill ambassador for the Roll Back Malaria, has made eradicating malaria a top priority and has lent her voice and well-known personality to draw global attention to the impact malaria has on children and families in Africa — bringing the voices of Africa’s poor to World Economic Forum, U.N. General Assembly, African Union and the White House, to name a few.