What would it take for donor-funded local public health NGOs to access government funding?

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Taimi Amaambo

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are major contributors to the delivery of healthcare in Namibia. The last decades have also seen changes within NGOs themselves because of the entry of new cadre of trained technical people and professionals into NGOs.

Since the emergence of epidemic diseases such as HIV and AIDS in the mid-80s, a number of NGOs were founded in Namibia and complemented government intervention programmes with funding primarily from foreign donors. This indeed has been commendable. However nowadays, the reality of sustaining work led by these NGOs has become a threat not only to the communities they serve but also to sustain gains made from these programmes on a national scale. While development organisations continue to provide support to sustain some of these interventions, funding has been dwindling. One good example is the current funding in Namibia from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that shrunk from US$101 million for five years to US$37 million for the coming three years. A number of NGOs such as the Society for Family Health (SFH) have survived these funding turbulences for the past 20 years with government and its stakeholders only recently making efforts to explore sustainability mechanisms.

Undeniably, it has been noted that using any country’s income level as a measure of its ability to sustain a public health response does not consider that country’s willingness and capacity to absorb programmes into its domestic funding and operational structures. Currently, there seems to be no clear mechanism through which government can provide funding for NGOs. With the absence of such mechanisms, NGOs are likely to be defunded in the process of transition from external resources to domestic reliance, risking an end to vital interventions led by NGOs.

While Namibia has made efforts to explore the most feasible and affordable mechanism of sustaining interventions funded by donors, efforts have been slow with uncertainty driven by the current economic downturn. Without commitment at the highest political levels, a government funding mechanism, which ensures that local NGOs are able to access public money can be easily delayed by changes in political and economic environment. The increasing interest of many countries like Namibia in “Ending AIDS by 2030” offers an excellent opportunity to secure high-level political commitment to increase domestic financing particularly for public health NGOs.

Taimi Amaambo
Country Director for the Society for Family Health.
Views expressed are not necessarily those of SFH and its funding agencies

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