Malawi and Zambia experiences in the sustainability of community based organizations

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Sustainable funding for community-based organisations (CBOs) is an ongoing issue facing civil society. According to presentations at the conference of the Irish Forum for Global Health (IFGH), held in Dublin February 2nd and 3rd, 2012, the impact of time-limited funding is often determined by the nature of recipient CBOs, and pre-existing capacity.

During an inspirational speech at the evening reception of the conference, Professor Father Michael Kelly talked about the importance of mobilizing CBOs, critical for supporting HIV work. “For the first time UNAIDS acknowledges the role of civil societies in HIV/AIDS,” Kelly said.

Nevertheless, the role of sustainable CBO funding was a major question for global health researchers during the conference, and two presentations in particular discussed this issue. John Kadzandira, a doctoral researcher in health system and policy at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (RCSI) acknowledged Malawian CBOs providing home based care, HIV awareness and reduction in stigma and discrimination, during his presentation entitled ‘Create CBOs or no Funding for HIV work’.

However, John said “Funding led to the creation of CBOs that could not survive when funding stopped, and non-existing CBOs collapsed after the external funding was stopped”, adding “there is generally great resentment from the communities over how some CBOs use HIV funding”.

In contrast, Aisling Walsh, a researcher in Global HIV/AIDS Initiatives Network (GHIN) at Department of Epidemiology and Public Health (RCSI), gave an additional view in her presentation, ‘The sustainability of CBOs for HIV/AIDS care and support services in Zambia’. Walsh opposed the national level perceptions which say CBOs were established to access funds, rather than just from community needs. She argued that CBOs had existed prior to funding, and when this became available it actually promoted sustainability through the support of income generating activities. Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of enabling, working with, building the capacity of and putting in place sustainability plans of existing CBOs.

The existence and capacity of CBOs before receiving funding are key determinants for absorbing funding and for sustainability afterwards. The two presenters agreed that external funding must be used to strengthen and build capacity of existing CBOs, and not set-up new structures or create new mechanisms for delivering HIV care and support services.

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