The ICO letter, an annual feature at the Gates Foundation India office, demonstrates the foundation's commitment to collaborations with key stakeholders across various sectors to leverage their unique strengths, in order to deliver solutions to address some of India's most pressing health and development challenges.
The letter provides specific examples of such collaborative efforts and illustrates how this approach has helped solve problems, ranging from issues such as vaccination to maternal, newborn and child care to local level sensitization of farmers.
The foundation's operating approach is based on collaborations and, at every stage, informed by a broad group of experts inside and outside the foundation, community leaders, government officials, civil society leaders and advocates.
Nachiket Mor, Country Director, India, referred to the need for collaboration and working together towards shared goals, "Working with local and global experts and stakeholders in the eco-system allows us to draw on the unique talents, resources and know-how of industry, academia and the public sector, to better serve the most vulnerable communities."
The experience of working with the Bihar Government is a stellar example of collaboration which is outlined in the letter. The foundation worked closely with the state government and CARE to help test new techniques and technologies to improve healthcare delivery service quality.
These investments in innovative methods and tools have since been expanded, from a pilot in eight districts, to all across the state, with the objective of strengthening the underlying health system. Such a two-pronged approach that adds a layer of technical solution to a strong health delivery platform would help Bihar meet its development goals, while becoming a template for other states to learn from and emulate.
The foundation has already done a substantial body of work in collaborating with bio-technology and pharmaceutical companies in India to develop affordable vaccines that protect children from deadly diseases such as pneumonia, cholera and enteric fever.
The association with Serum Institute, Pune, resulted in the development of the MenAfrivac a vaccine which was used to wipe out the dreaded Menangitis a virus from sub-Saharan Africa. The foundation is now working closely with the institute to develop a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. It is also supporting organizations such as BioE and Bharat Biotech, in the development of lifesaving vaccines. The foundation collaborates with the private sector to create demonstrable public-private partnership models for delivery of health services, which could be adopted by the Government of India at scale.
Another key area of the foundation's efforts has been with communities - as they are the most important change agents in the country. The work of Project Concern International (PCI) is commendable in this context. They ran a pilot in 2012 focused on sanitation, nutrition and hygiene, and demonstrated how healthy behaviors could be adopted even when unhealthy behaviors are ingrained as social and cultural norms.
Digital Green is another example of how a community-based approach can be used successfully to yield positive outcomes. Digital Green ushered in a highly successful model where 11,000 extension agents used 4000 videos in 18 Indian languages to provide instructions to 1.3 million smallholder farmers - leading to improved practices and better yields.
Given the depth, scale and scope of the developmental challenges facing the country, the Gates Foundation believes that it is critical to build institutional strength that can create and develop technical expertise and an eco-system that enable innovations. In this context, it is important to mention the foundation's work with the WASH Institute.
There is no dearth of innovation or capital today, but it is important to bring all of that together in a collaborative framework with multiple actors to ensure the most effective interventions are incentivized to benefit the marginalized and the vulnerable.
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