HIV/AIDS is being spread along Africa's transport corridors at alarming rates. As a major transporter in Africa, WFP wanted to ensure that its own truck drivers were not contributing to this problem. A TNT project manager tested the concept, using two converted containers around the Blantyre area in southern Malawi. Upon the successful completion of the pilot in September-October 2005, TNT and WFP then moved towards a roll-out across Malawi. Moreover, the intention is to expand across Africa and Asia in the future.
Together with TNT, the World Food Program (WFP) committed to expand what started as an in-house training program into an external project that now targets truck drivers across Africa and Asia. To reach this target group (which is constantly on the move), and to overcome the stigmas associated with HIV/AIDS, TNT and WFP have placed mobile 'Wellness Centers' along the major transport routes. Drivers can stop at one of the converted containers to get free advice and counseling on a range of health issues, including HIV/AIDS.
TNT and WFP have expanded their cooperation on this project to include other key partners, including the government of Malawi, UNICEF, WHO and UNAIDS. Other business sectors, such as the milling industry, have also expressed their interest. TNT and WFP hope that, through the CGI community network, they will be able to expand interest and involvement in the project, and also make others aware of the mutual benefits that their unique form of partnership can bring to private and public sector organizations.
In 2005, TNT dedicated million to the 'Moving the World' partnership with WFP, most of which has been used in knowledge-transfer projects and hands-on support. TNT and WFP have been able to create a partnership that has improved both organizations, while tackling the logistical challenges of fighting world hunger.
STI clinical services and treatment of common ailments are provided at the Mwanza site. Educational sessions, counseling and condoms are provided at the Blantyre warehouse site (33,529 condoms have been distributed as of this update). Hands-on staff training at both sites have been provided by an experienced coordinator visiting from the South Africa roadside clinic network. Moreover, the WFP project manager conducts a site visit to one of the roadside clinics in South Africa.
For the transport industry, the issue of health and mobility came to a head during the 2003-2005 southern Africa food crisis, when the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) struggled to find sufficient numbers of truck drivers to deliver relief food to hungry communities. At the same time, TNT, the global express mail company, had committed itself to responsibly address the negative impact of HIV and AIDS within the transport sector. By joining forces to tackle a common problem, the commercial and humanitarian transport actors took the first step on the road to potentially change the course of public health for mobile populations.
While the public health experts had long recognized the relevance of mobility on the spread of disease, now the transport industry itself stepped up to intervene on a scale never before seen. This was critical because prior to WFP's and TNT's involvement, HIV prevention initiatives along the transport corridors of Southern Africa had been too broad-based, focusing on the community in general and as a result, often failing to reach mobile workers, such as long distance truck drivers.
While it was the impact of HIV and AIDS that initiated the need to create North Star Alliance, we recognize that other diseases such as other STIs, tuberculosis, malaria and cardiovascular disease are also related to mobility and are thus included in North Star's area of focus.
What are we looking for?
North Star Alliance is seeking financial and/or in-kind support to enable the expansion of the wellness center network and allow for value-added services such as COMETS (our electronic health transport system that connects all of our wellness centres together), Monitoring and Evaluation, Training, and Prevention Materials and Research and Development.
North Star Alliance's (North Star) Funding Principles are critical to its funding strategy, which stands on the following four pillars:
1. Share the Financial Burden: We believe that, for the foreseeable future, the costs of providing sustainable access to quality health care services in most low-income settings cannot be borne by the direct stakeholders (i.e., individuals, communities, and businesses) alone. Indirect stakeholders, such as international donors, multinational supply chain operators, and philanthropic foundations, will need to remain engaged as well.
2. Demonstrate Impact: We only expect direct and indirect stakeholders to invest in health care interventions that have proven their impact.
3. Demonstrate Return on Investment (ROI) through Outcomes: We ensure that the financial contributions of both direct and indirect stakeholders are clearly linked to the outcomes of our activities.
4. Provide an Attractive Platform for Engagement: We are confident that well managed, efficient and effective regional health care networks are an attractive platform to introduce new products and services that will compliment and cross-subsidize our current service offerings.
North Star works with two categories of funding: core and operational. Below is an explanation for how this works.
Core funding is provided by our five core partners - the International Transport Workers Federation, ORTEC, TNT, the World Food Programme, and UNAIDS - and by the Dutch Foreign Ministry. Each of these core partners has shown a deep and lasting commitment to North Star and its objectives. This funding is used to cover overhead expenditures incurred at the head office level related to the development and management of the entire North Star organization.
Operational funding is used for both the direct operational costs of each Roadside Wellness Center (RWC) and for network-wide capacity building services.
Direct Operational Costs:
WHAT: North Star leverages local investment by engaging a fluid and overlapping network of more than 60 partners. These costs include infrastructure investments, local administrative expenses and staff salaries, utilities, and medical expenses.
Funding at the local level can come from a variety of methods that include direct stakeholders such as:
- Mobile populations (i.e., transport workers and sex workers) through fee-for-service,
- Local transport companies (e.g., SDV Transami and Civicon) through a cost sharing system,
- Government ministries (e.g., health and transport), and
- Other local corporate and foundation donors.
Encouraging direct stakeholders to engage local cost recovery initiatives, such as fee-per-service programmes and franchising, we anticipate a greater likelihood in being able to recover our direct operational costs. Currently, North Star is also researching additional cost recovery methods including the development of a low-cost micro-insurance programme for transport workers/hotspot communities and a comprehensive health and safety training package, which will be marketed to the transport industry.
Capacity Building Services:
WHAT: In conjunction with North Star's core partners and the continuous relationship building that expands our network, we are able to secure funding for the essential network-wide capacity building services. These services include:
- Data collection and transfer using North Star's COMETS system,
- Educational development and training for all medical and behaviour change communication agents (BCC agents),
- Research and development to continuously innovate and optimize our service offering,
- The development and production of targeted prevention and promotional materials, and
- Expenses related to the monitoring and evaluation of the curative, preventative, and promotional services offered at each site.
HOW: This network currently includes bi-lateral/government donors (e.g. US, Japan, Canada, and Sweden), international supply chain operators (e.g. Chevron and Heineken), non-governmental organizations (e.g. Family Health International) and multi-lateral/inter-governmental organizations (e.g. UN and SADC). It is because of the participation and investments from each of these partners that each RWC is able to operate at optimal efficiency and meet the North Star Standard outlined in North Star's Heath Strategy.