This is my last report as I stand down as Trustee after 9 years, and the last three years as Chair. I am delighted to handover to Prof Kelechi Nnoaham from today (July 1, 2022).
It has again been a challenging year for us. Events have changed the way we think and the way we work. The pandemic will have a huge impact on health for a long time to come and has a very high risk of widening health inequities even further. And we have been challenged about the whole ethos of international development and our own attitudes and behaviours.
We have continued to support individuals and organisations directly with their queries and challenges. We have also supported the sector through events such as our annual conference, annual lecture and shared learning events. Much of this has continued online, through our active email firstname.lastname@example.org, and Twitter accounts (see @WaAHealthLinks) We also have a refreshed and updated website. This has allowed wider participation, especially with African partners, although we have all missed face-to-face networking.
We have continued to engage with Welsh Government, both through the Wales and Africa Program and the Health Minister, about the recommendations from the Review commissioned in early 2021: Wales’s Health Partnerships with Africa: Maximising potential for mutual benefit (Cymru here). The Welsh Government set up a Steering Group in response which is due to complete soon. I have been very disappointed by the slow response and the lack of long-term investment in coordination to improve the impact of global health activity in Wales.
However, I am optimistic that we are at a turning point. I am optimistic that the momentum is building in the movement for global solidarity among health workers. and that there are opportunities to really move forward with our common passion for solidarity with our health worker colleagues in and from Africa.
Annual Conference In November 2021, we again held a two-day online conference with 11 sessions. You can see recordings of all sessions here. Over 170 people registered, and 148 people attended all or part of the conference (127 from the UK but 4 from Uganda, 3 each from Nigeria and Lesotho, 2 each from Zambia, India and Kenya, 1 each from Greece, Ireland and Liberia)
67% of people rated the conference as excellent, and 25% as good. Especially inspiring was the keynote address by the newly appointed Chief Nursing Officer for Wales, Sue Tranka who is now a great advocate for the Wales and Africa health movement and for diaspora workers in NHS Wales.
We were delighted to be able to launch the publication of the review commissioned by Welsh Government on Wales’s Health Partnerships with Africa: Maximising potential for mutual benefit (Cymru here) You can watch the Chief Medical Officers speech and a presentation of the Reviews findings and recommendations.
There was also the long-awaited launch of the Global Citizenship e-learning module for NHS staff, which has been a labour of love to complete by Liz Green of Public Health Wales and Suzie Ventris- Field of the Welsh Centre for International Affairs.
I particularly remember Craig Owen’s delightful exploration of the history of Wales Global Citizenship, full of surprises, and the in-depth exploration of COVID-19 in BAME communities and vaccine hesitancy in Wales and Africa, led by Dr Zed Sibanda (with our new Chair, Prof Kelechi Nnoaham and Prof Edward Kunonga).
Annual Lecture In December 2021, Tony managed to secure yet another inspirational speaker, Prof Anthony Costello on his subject of “A future for our children?” Anthony is a professor of International Child Health and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health. We were also pleased to welcome Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales and Mme Mpheng Molapo from the Lesotho Ministry of Education to give a response to Prof. Costello’s lecture. This led to a lively discussion about the impact of the pandemic on top of the already very frightening challenge of climate change for the world that our children will inherit.
Last year’s lecture by Prof David Pencheon sparked great debate about the contribution of the health sector to sustainability. The audience in the event included several doctors who have since gone on to set up the Green Health Wales Network, which launched in June 2021, where we also presented.
Shared Learning Events We continued to organise online events instead of our 3 quarterly regional events. Hub Cymru Africa staff have been excellent at supporting the organisation and delivery of these events, and we have also benefited from the easier access to HCA events. Dr Zed Sibanda led on an excellent SLE in March 2022 on Recognising the Contribution NHS Diaspora Staff Make to Global Health which has triggered ongoing work with Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board and Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW).
One of our new Trustees, Karen Robson has taken on the lead for education and learning and has hit the ground running with the latest webinar in June 2022 on the International Learning Opportunities Program aimed at awareness raising for health workers. This was one of our most popular SLEs, attracting over 70 people to register and 47 who attended in person, of whom many are new to us.
Medical Students Alison Fiander repeated the Special Studies week on Global Health that she had developed for Cardiff medical students, as an offer from WaAHLN. This year, this was taken over and enhanced by Dr John Rasquinha, with several of our Trustees offered teaching sessions during the week. We also delivered a session of global health for Swansea Medical School.
Strategy We held a facilitated strategy session in the summer of 2021, to explore the context we are in and what our priorities should be over the next 10 years. We confirmed the purpose of the organisation to be: The promotion and protection of good health in Africa and Wales in particular but not exclusively by establishing partnerships between health workers in Wales and Africa. We discussed our ambitions and limits:
What we do now as volunteers: We are keen to continue our role if supporting, informing and advising health partnerships. We will continue to advocate for the health partnership movement.
What we could do with capacity: We are keen to move into a greater quality improvement role and a monitoring evaluation role, dependent on capacity to do so.
What we don’t wish to do: we do not plan to become a funding or grant making body.
Remit outside Africa: We understand that there are active health partnerships between Wales and low and middle countries outside sub–Saharan Africa. We are open to engage with them in the short term and will consider including them in our full remit to them in the longer term, but not yet.
Constitution and Organisational Model
We have been a Charity since 2013, charity number 1155020 you can see details at the Charity Commission website here. We changed our constitution in March 2022 so that we are no longer a membership organisation. Trustees will be selected by the existing Board and no longer elected. We also decided to pursue closer alignment with the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) over the next year and will propose a THETCymru model to both Boards this month.
Board Capacity We have had changes to the Board members since the last AGM We have a good range of skills and knowledge and experience, which have addressed some of the gaps identified in our last skills audit in 2020. I am grateful to Allison Williams and Zainab Nur for work on governance and with recruitment of new Trustees. Allison has also been a very wise advisor on engagement with the NHS and Welsh Government. I am grateful to Gordon Lewis for his support, especially in liaising with NHS colleagues in education and training. And Bernadette Fuge, who has been a stalwart in representing us on formal groups and grant committees.
We have continued with the same Chair, Treasurer and Secretary. My thanks to Paul Myres for continuing as Treasurer, and for his work in getting us a functioning bank account and supporting me in many other areas. Also, many thanks for Alison Fiander for providing much valuable support in organisation. Alison also stepped up to be our communications lead, with the able help of Towera Luhanga, in supporting our two fantastic communications volunteers. This has led to improvements in our website and social media and newsletters, and an active plan to produce a Three-Year Report of partnership activity in the next 6 months.
The COVID 19 response in Wales continued to make huge demands on the time of several Trustees, who work in the public sector or have returned to help out. Similarly, some Observers have been unable to engage and support as they may have done in the past. This has only really begun to ease in the spring of this year and has affected our capacity
Changes in Trustees • Allison Williams and Karen Robson joined as Trustees in July 2021 • Towera Luhanga joined in September 2021 • Mac Walapu stood down as Trustee in early 2022, after over 4 years as Trustee and long standing engagement with health partnerships in Wales. • Alison Fiander has decided to step down at this AGM, as Board members and Trustee
We have been fortunate to have series of volunteers through the Hub Cymru Africa Volunteering Scheme over the last three years
Caitlin Parr joined us when she was a journalism student at Cardiff University in 2020, and was immensely helpful in revamping our newsletter, website and supporting the Board meetings with notes. And all with infectious enthusiasm! We were delighted when she started her dream first job with Global News in 2021 (she is lovely on Twitter, with lots of interesting global health stuff @caitlinamyparr )
Yasmine Ghorayeb joined us in March 2022, having moved to Wales a few months earlier. She has experience as a freelance journalist mainly on social media. She has taken forward the website update and has brought our Twitter account to life again!! Please do check this if you haven’t looked lately @WaAHealthLinks
Hub Cymru Africa provides support for any of our activities that we take on as partners in HCA, but not for an activity of the WaAHLN – for example Board meetings and Trustee support, engaging with stakeholders, communications and charity related work
Membership We now have over 300 people on our mailing list for regular bulletins and updates. However, our attempts to launch a membership scheme did not get very far, although we have open engagement with many of old and new friends through events and via our social media and email.
Hub Cymru Africa We are one of the four partner organisations on the Board of HCA, and receive considerable capacity support from their staff, in particular for events organisation. We have excellent relationships, and I would like to thank Claire O Shea and her team for being so supportive, responsive and helpful. Their support for the annual conference and sharing learning events is invaluable.
We have had two representatives on the HCA Board, me and Paul Myres, who is also on the Finance and Risk Committee. The HCA Partnership Agreement has been renewed this year and there is a new Hub Cymru Africa Strategy.
However, we have not been successful in agreeing a named staff member for health, unlike the other three partners who all directly employ and manage one or more staff within the HCA team.
Welsh Government have agreed the terms of funding for HCA for a three-year term from April 2021, which is very reassuring. They have also increasingly diversified sources of funding in the last year. Hub Cymru Africa have hosted a series of very useful and through provoking webinars in recent months, in particular the Global Solidarity Summit events in February this year, which you can see on their YouTube channel here.
Relationship with the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET) This strong relationship has continued through the year, with collaboration focussed on the recommendations of the Welsh Health partnerships Review. I am especially grateful to Ben Simms, Chief Executive and Judith Ellis, Chair until December 2021, for their personal and unwavering support for WaAHLN and for me as Chair personally.
We have benefited from THET’s capacity, for example in cooperation around diaspora health workers activity. THET have published two powerful policy papers and we have used these for events in Wales and to engage with HEIW. THET have also facilitated relationships with UK bodies, such as Health Education England.
Dr Kit Chalmers has been key to this, being based in Wales herself, when she started as the researcher employed short term to carry out the Welsh Health Partnerships Review and going on to be appointed as THET’s Head of Policy and Learning. She continues as our main liaison.
We have had an MoU between THET and WaAHLN for some years, covering several areas: (a) Engagement and advocacy (b) Sharing learning, expertise, and training (c) Accessing funding (d) Capacity building in Wales
We have a joint 12-month workplan, and recently reviewed the 2021-22 plan, with significant achievements. The WaAHLN Board has decided to put forward merging the two charities, with a Welsh Steering Group and a seat on the THET for the Chair of the steering Board. This will be considered by both Boards in July 2022.
Charter for International Health Partnerships in Wales The Charter was relaunched at the Welsh Public Health Conference in October 2019, with a suite of toolkits and guidance. The WfAHLN has had a significant input to the development of these toolkits, however this work has been paused since March 2020 and has still not recommenced.
The Future I am optimistic that the momentum is building in the movement for global solidarity among health workers. and that there are opportunities to really move forward with our common passion for solidarity with our health worker colleagues in and from Africa. I believe that our proposed merger with THET will be mutually beneficial and will strengthen our voice and capacity.
I am pleased that we are about to start on a project to produce a report on partnership activity since the world changed in March 2020, and this will be a great opportunity to re-engage with all old and new friends engaged in Wales and Africa health partnerships.
And I have every confidence in my fellow Trustees with the leadership of my successor, I will be cheering you all on!