Bloomberg Philanthropies CEO Patti Harris 2019 Annual Letter
JUN. 13, 2019
As you read through this year’s annual report, you will find a wide range of stories from across the globe showing that progress is possible through strong collaboration, especially when philanthropy and government work together.
Let me start with just one example about Kigoma.
Kigoma is a region in western Tanzania, on the shore of one of the largest lakes in the world, just to the south of Burundi and Rwanda. The region is home to two million people, yet, despite its size, until a dozen years ago not a single obstetrician worked there. With access to maternal medical care scarce across the entire country, 11,000 women were dying during pregnancy and childbirth in Tanzania each year. Hospitals capable of handling complications were simply too far away and there were not enough doctors.
In response to this incredible unmet need, in 2007, we began working in partnership with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, Kigoma’s local government, and local nonprofits to build on simple but powerful ideas that together we thought could make a real difference.
For instance: We gave support to upgrade existing health facilities so that they had the equipment and infrastructure, like operating rooms, to provide needed care.
We helped train assistant medical officers to step in when doctors weren’t available and perform emergency surgery like C-sections. This was only possible thanks to the leadership of the national government, which allowed non-doctors to perform certain medical procedures, the dedication of health care workers, and the expertise of Tanzanian doctors, nurses, and so many others.
We connected more people to contraceptive care to help prevent unintended pregnancies (the best way to prevent maternal deaths and illnesses), because we followed the data and saw a major unmet need for family planning.
We made sure, through our nonprofit and government partners, to raise awareness of these new services in local communities.
And, most important, we listened when people talked about what they needed.
After a decade of work in Kigoma, the results speak for themselves. Almost 90,000 babies have been delivered at facilities that we’ve supported. Today, nearly three-quarters of women in the region give birth in a health care facility with a skilled medical provider, up from less than half when we started. Hundreds of maternal and newborn deaths are being prevented every year.
These results were made possible by the work of so many incredible local leaders, assistant medical officers, doctors, nurses, community members, and other medical professionals. This past year our board met with Dr. Sunday Alfred Dominico, the clinical director of one of our local partners, to hear firsthand about the transformation that was possible through the power of our partnership. He began by saying, “In terms of reducing maternal mortality, Tanzania is walking, but Kigoma Region is running ahead.”
And Tanzania’s national government agreed. In 2018, it began working with local governments across the country to upgrade more than 300 health care facilities using the lessons of what worked in Kigoma as a model. In May 2019, it officially took over the program in Kigoma. As Mike says, “It’s philanthropy’s job to take risks – and government’s job to scale solutions.” And the partnership in Kigoma shows just how that can work to improve and save countless lives.
This program in Kigoma, and its takeover by the national government, is a powerful example of the Bloomberg Philanthropies approach. In all of our work, we look for strong partners, try innovative solutions, follow the data, and spread what is proven to work.
The truth is that the challenges facing our world are simply too complex for any one organization to make progress alone, whether it’s tackling climate change, improving education, or strengthening public health. That’s why across all of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ programs around the world our partners include hundreds of mayors and other government leaders; colleges and universities (represented in part by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg Scholars featured on the homepage of this website); nonprofit organizations that build grassroots campaigns and lead advocacy efforts to change policies and practices; and businesses that offer expertise and resources.
In fact, one of our most important partnerships is with our colleagues at Bloomberg L.P. With the vast majority of the company’s profits going to Bloomberg Philanthropies, their success makes all of our initiatives possible.
These partnerships lie at the heart of our work, and they are essential to the progress we’ve been able to make as an organization. Over the past year, our partnerships have expanded along with our goals. It’s been inspiring for the entire Bloomberg team to work with so many leaders who share our passion for finding solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.
Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our work. We look forward to making an even greater impact in the year ahead.
Read the 2019 Bloomberg Philanthropies Annual Report here.