Freedom from Hunger last week won InterAction’s Best Practices and Innovations (BPI) award for “Health and Microfinance: Leveraging the Strengths of Two Sectors to Improve Food Security.” InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations, honors those that promote information-sharing on effective program approaches and improve practice standards by boosting the efficiency and impacts of field programs.
Freedom from Hunger’s Health and Microfinance program tested the feasibility and sustainability of adding health protection options for microfinance clients. Five microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Africa, Asia and Latin America added combinations of health education, health financing and linkages to healthcare providers and products at an average annual marginal cost to the MFIs of just $.29 per client family, only reducing average annual MFI profit from 26 percent to 24 percent.
Research indicates clients have better health knowledge and behaviors, and health services are now more available to over 600,000 clients in participating MFIs (a total of approximately 3.5 million people including family members).
The five winning organizations include Freedom from Hunger, ADRA International, Africare, Heifer International and Winrock International, showcasing the commitment to improving the efficiency and impact of agriculture, food security and rural community economic development programs in the developing world. All submissions were rigorously reviewed by a selection committee of experts and evaluated according to the following criteria: evidence of effectiveness/success, efficiency/cost-effectiveness, equitable outcomes for women and men, sustainability and replicability/adaptability.
During the award lunch on December 14 in Washington, D.C., winners presented their best practice approaches. Attending on behalf of Freedom from Hunger, Marcia Metcalfe, Director, Microfinance and Health Protection, noted that it was “interesting to find ourselves among the organizations that were recognized for innovations like integrated dairy production, the establishment of fruit-bearing orchards in Ghana, and soybean marketing and value-chain development in Zimbabwe. It was very good to have our work recognized and shared within a forum of practitioners who clearly understand the need for multiple solutions to address food security.”
A 12-minute video called “Healthy Microfinance: Innovations in Microfinance and Health Services” is available on YouTube, illustrating the success of this project.