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Life Savers in Africa

Senior Advisor Ari Alexander reflects on his time at the Africa Christian Health Associations Platform 5th Biennial Conference on “Improving Women’s and Children’s Health in Africa” in Accra, Ghana.

Editor's Note: To learn more about Ari Alexander’s trip to Ghana and his work at UASAID see his recent interview with Frederick Nnoma-Addison of AMIP News

Thunderstorms took out the electricity. The conference proceeded without lights, microphones or air conditioning in 100 degree heat.  Most of us would find ourselves understandably distracted and uncomfortable under such circumstances but the attendees at this gathering were an extraordinary group of Africans.

Doctors, pastors, researchers and healthcare practitioners—leaders of the Christian Health Associations in their countries—came together in Accra, Ghana for a conference on the role of faith-based organizations in helping the world achieve the Millennium Development Goals on maternal and child health. In most cases, the religious institutions, church networks and faith-based organizations that they represent have been providing healthcare to the citizens in their countries for decades longer than either the U.S. Government or their own governments.

I had the chance to speak with Joseph, soon to be a citizen of the newest country in the world— the Republic of South Sudan. He is responsible for dozens of HIV treatment facilities in some of the most difficult conditions in the world. I met Donna, a humble doctor from Kenya who happens to be a world expert on the pharmaceutical supply chain impacting the world's poorest people. I listened intently to Donald, a brilliant physician from Nigeria coordinating over 250 healthcare facilities throughout Africa's most populous country.

On the second day of the conference I presented on the Obama Administration's commitment to working in partnership with faith-based and community-based organizations. My colleague, Susan Brems, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Global Health at USAID, gave a fantastic talk about the Administration's signature Global Health Initiative.

Then the real fun began. Our session went 90 minutes over the allocated time as participant after participant passionately advised, encouraged, and taught us as they responded to our comments.

This is as good as it gets. Being in listening mode. Gathering golden nuggets of information and advice from across the African continent. Learning from those who serve on the frontlines of the world's battle to care for the most vulnerable.

We want to hear your golden nuggets of information. To share with us, please email fbci (at) 

Ari Alexander is Director of the Center for Faith-based & Community Initiatives and the Senior Advisor  to the Administrator for NGO Partnerships and Global Engagement at USAID