Photo © by BØRNEfonden

Paramedic training in Benin

The development organisation BORNEfonden and Benin’s Ministry of Health have joined forces with the Danish emergency and assistance company Falck to educate health workers and improve health clinics in the West African country Benin.

The programme contributes to relieve the pressure on local clinics and hospitals by strengthening the capacity in eight rural municipalities in Benin.

The partnership project brings together the CSO BORNEfonden and the private company Falck in an unusual collaboration that has benefitted the mothers of infant children in Benin as well as the Danish company.

“Helping reduce maternal and new born mortality is closely related to our core value: to be available and to help out in emergency situations. At the same time, the project in Benin presented a really large development potential for our staff,” says project manager Hanne Vejs from Falck. “When our rescue workers suddenly have to use their teaching competencies in a completely different setting, using a different language in a different culture, they get challenged in a very positive way. There has been a major interest from our staff in joining the project. When they come back, they tell of amazing experiences of working with highly motivated locals that are eager to learn more,” she says.

“With the results that have been achieved in Benin, this really is the essence of CSR to us.”

Partnership synergy

Falck has recently entered the African market with the strategy of expanding its business into new markets.

BORNEfonden has been present in Benin for more than 20 years, working for a better future for children, specifically focusing on strengthening healthcare, education, income generation and development. By teaming up, the two organisations have been able to merge their goals and draw on the synergy from their various resources.

Falck has been working with emergency assistance in Europe for many years and has a large staff of well-trained paramedics and midwifes, who are experienced in ‘training trainers’.

BORNEfonden has built good relations and goodwill with the Beninese authorities and politicians – a key factor that has enabled the partnership to engage with the Beninese Ministry of Health.

“The collaboration means that we have been able to introduce highly skilled know-how to the most exposed part of the population,” says BORNEfonden’s CEO Bolette Christensen. “The Beninese Ministry of Health appreciates that through Falck, the country has gained unique new knowledge on issues like ambulance operation and first aid. This is completely new in Benin.”

A new way to the market

By partnering up with BORNEfonden and the Ministry of Health, Falck has gained a better understanding of the local healthcare system and needs. In this project they are training public health workers, who can in turn educate local health workers in clinics in rural areas of Benin, where there is an urgent need for knowledge and competencies related to pregnancies and childbirth.

“The contens of the training sessions and the method that Falck applies is very different to anything that is known in Benin. By working with simulation training, they have already achieved some really impressive results only half way through the project,” says Bolette Christensen.

Building personal relations

A key learning so far has been that this type of partnership, which challenges ‘business as usual’ and seeks to transform existing structures in the healthcare system, cannot be done without strong personal relations and trust between all partners, the members of the steering group, the project group and the implementation group of the project.

One of the important things that has added to the trust factor in the partnership, has been BORNEfonden and Falck’s focus on making the competencies of Falck understandable and relevant in the local context.

In October 2015, all the project partners went for a joint ‘study trip’ to Copenhagen. Here, BORNEfonden and Benin’s Ministry of Health took part in a thorough introduction to Falck’s daily operations and got an insight into how the company works as a valuable link between the Danish healthcare system and the public.

The week-long meeting has laid the foundation for stronger mutual understanding, better collaboration and a more open dialogue on how the project can progress and form the basis for a scalable model for the Beninese healthcare system.

Partnerships are the future

Both Falck and BORNEfonden agree that the experiences they have gained through the partnership in Benin might very well be a path that they would set out on again in the future.

“Yes, definitely,” says Bolette Christensen from BORNEfonden. “NGOs and private companies in collaboration with local authorities can develop solutions to the complex challenges that developing countries face. This partnership is living proof of that. Partnerships are one of the new 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. At BORNEfonden we strongly support that notion.”

“It is till too early to say where it might lead, but we are currently looking into the possibilities of doing more projects with BORNEFonden,” says Hanne Vejs from Falck.

Falck is a Danish provider of rescue, assistance, healthcare and safety services. For more than a hundred years, the company has carried out activities that seek to prevent accidents and diseases; provided assistance in situations of emergency, accidents and need; and helped people move on with their lives after illness or accidents. The company has business activities in 45 countries on six continents.

BØRNEfonden Denmark
BØRNEfonden is a Danish NGO working with children and families in the 5 West African countries Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Cape Verde and Benin. BØRNEfonden has been present in Benin for more than 20 years, helping children and families to improve their lives through four areas of intervention; health, education, income generation and children and development. BORNEfonden typically works in a community for a period of 15-20 years, engaging the beneficiaries, after which all facilities are handed over to the local authorities and citizens of the local community.

BORNEfonden Benin
In Benin, BORNEfonden’s local offices have been in charge of the actual implementation of the project’s training program in order to increase the capacity of the health personnel in Benin. At the Beninese office there are 5 employees working full time on the Falck and BORNEfonden partnership.

Benin Ministry of Health
The Benin Ministry of Health has been engaged in the partnership, ensuring the right level of commitment, local anchoring and acceptance among the communities involved in the project. The Ministry is also contributing to the development of educational materials, awareness campaigns and the overall mobilisation of the healthcare personnel and communities.

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