New grant from Rockefeller Foundation helps LSE assist Sierra Leone's Ebola response

Ebola---Checkpoint---Sierra-Leone

The Rockefeller Foundation has renewed its longstanding philanthropic support of LSE through a gift of $900,000 towards the International Growth Centre (IGC), supporting the Centre’s collaboration with the government of Sierra Leone in revising their national strategic plan for a community health workforce. This is an integral part of their efforts to build resilience within the country’s health system in the wake of the Ebola crisis.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s philanthropic association with the School stretches back as far as the 1920s, with the first in a series of gifts spanning the next two decades. Between 1923 and 1937, Rockefeller’s giving to LSE totalled $2m, or £500,000 – the significance of the sum made apparent by the fact that the School’s total revenue expenditure during the whole of these 14 years amounted to just under £1.5m. This latest gift to the IGC is a continuation of an invaluable relationship to LSE.

Sierra Leone is one of three West African nations devastated by the Ebola outbreak of 2014, with the crisis exposing fatal weaknesses in its health system. The national government is now looking to address these exposed flaws, which range from low utilisation of health clinics to a limited number of highly trained medical staff able to manage the volume and severity of cases. Rolling out an improved, nationally integrated community health worker programme has been identified as a key focus for delivering enhanced primary health services within the country.

Established in 2008, the IGC aims to promote sustainable growth in developing countries by providing demand-led policy advice based on frontier research. Based at LSE and in partnership with the University of Oxford, it directs a global network of world-leading researchers and in-country teams in Africa and South Asia, working closely with partner governments to generate high quality research and policy advice on key growth challenges. It receives the majority of its funding from the Department for International Development (DFID). 

Through its in-country base in Sierra Leone led by Herbert M’cleod, the IGC intends to support the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health & Sanitation through direct consultations with researchers, technical experts, and policy makers with experience in community health systems. It will work to inform the strategic planning process and technical policy issues, in the discussions for forging a resilient health system for the people of Sierra Leone. 

The IGC also hopes to contribute to the establishment of the Ministry’s Community Health Worker Hub, which will manage the programme, and the programme’s first cohort of recruited workers. It also intends to assess the programme’s impact. It is anticipated that, ultimately, a finalised revised National Community Health Worker Policy will be presented to senior ministry staff, as part of the community engagement pillar of their Ebola recovery plan. The Rockefeller Foundation’s support is crucial in enabling the IGC to carry out these activities. 

Abou Bakarr Kamara and Nadia Hasham are Country Economists within the Sierra Leone team and advise the technical committee on evidence around community health worker programmes from other evaluated countries, particularly Zambia where the IGC has supported the formalisation of community health workers. “This is a unique opportunity for the IGC to contribute to the strengthening of Sierra Leone’s health system after the Ebola crisis,” said Nadia. “This funding allows us to more effectively support the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in making crucial policy decisions in the most informed way possible.”

She continued: “Not only are we leveraging previous IGC research and evidence from this and other contexts to inform the policy planning process, but we are also able to support the revised community health worker programme through generating new evidence on its effectiveness, informing a financing plan, and helping establish monitoring and evaluation systems.” 

Jonathan Leape, Executive Director of the IGC, expressed how important the Rockefeller grant is to the IGC’s work in Sierra Leone. “This grant contributes substantially towards increasing the resilience of a country shocked and stressed by the Ebola epidemic,” he said. “By building on our ongoing work with the Ministry of Health, The Rockefeller Foundation’s support will allow us to more effectively advise on policies that will lead to a stronger health system for the country.”