Coalitions of local NGOs can effectively demand access to medicines, reports MSF

Graham McKerrow, HIV i-Base

National NGOs need encouragement to build coalitions to improve access to medicines, reported a team from Médecins Sans Frontières Holland (MSF-H). They reported on coalition building projects in Ukraine, Nigeria and El Salvador and said they can be effective in public action, political lobbying and coordinating local technical expertise.

Kevin Moody of MSF-H said their Ukraine programme tackled vertical transmission and treated infants. They have involved the All-Ukraine Network of PLWHA and found that different factions could unite over the issue of treatment.

In the delta region of Nigeria, said Moody, in 2000 they launched a coalition that included journalists, politicians and celebrities, as well as NGOs, to lobby for access to medicines in general.

In El Salvador MSF runs a mother to child transmission programme that imports medicines from Spain for use in and around San Salvador. MSF facilitated meetings of PLWHA and NGOs and were greatly helped because one strong NGO had a very charismatic leader.

Moody said their reasons for failure included oppressive governments, fragmented civil society and lack of training and information. The reasons for success included focusing on common goals, and support from other organisations. He said it was essential that NGOs were vital “and not searching for the next funding”.

MSF-H found that NGOs needed strengthening in all areas of management and Moody emphasised that coalitions had to be driven by local groups and supporters, not by outsiders.

“Northern NGOs must facilitate and support southern NGOs without taking over the coalition,” he said.


K Moody, K Lezhentsev, H de la Thorre et al. Coalition-building as a tool to improve access to medicines in developing countries. XIV International AIDS Conference, Barcelona 7-12 July, Abstract MoOrG1083.

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