Community health outreach program of the Chad-Cameroon petroleum development and pipeline project

Jürg Utzinger, Kaspar Wyss, Daugla D Moto, Marcel Tanner, Burton H Singer
Clinics in Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2004, 4 (1): 9-26
A critical appraisal has been presented of the CHOP for a large-scale energy infrastructure development project that was implemented in two of the world's poorest countries. The project is under close scrutiny from various independent monitoring groups, civil society organizations, and human rights groups. Reviewing the achievements and shortcomings permits the extraction of important lessons that will be critical for the future adoption of the CHOP in the current setting and for the implementation of additional CHOPs elsewhere in the developing world. The authors believe that the design must be flexible, efficient, and innovative so that a CHOP promptly can address pressing public health issues as they arise (eg, epidemic outbreak) and include the needs and demands of the concerned communities. An innovative feature of the current project is the high degree and mix of public-private partnerships. The project's CHOP also relies on partnerships. As elaborated elsewhere, public-private partnerships should be seen as a social experiment--they reveal promise but are not the solution for every problem. For this CHOP, the focus is on partnerships between a multinational consortium, government agencies, and international organizations. The partnerships also include civil society organizations for monitoring and evaluation and local NGOs designated for the implementation of the selected public health interventions within the CHOP. The governments and their respective health policies often form the umbrella under which the partnerships operate. With the increase in globalization, however, the importance and capacities of governments have diminished, and there is growing private-sector involvement. Private enterprise is seen as an efficient, innovative, pragmatic, and powerful means to achieve environmental and social sustainability. Experiences with the partnership configurations in the current CHOP are of importance for tackling grand challenges in global health by applying a systemic approach. Other innovations of the project in general, and the CHOP in particular, are the strong emphases on institutional-capacity building, integration, and sustainability. In countries like Chad and Cameroon, there are serious shortages of well-qualified health personnel. The CHOP described in this article provides leverage for initiating better healthcare that will reduce the high burden of disease in the developing world. Reducing mortality rates for infants and children younger than 5 years in sub-Saharan Africa requires massive scaling-up of malaria-control interventions (eg, large-scale distribution of ITNs to protect millions of African children), thereby approaching the Abuja targets (see Armstrong Schellenberg et al). The local NGOs that took a lead within the framework of the CHOP in the distribution of ITNs and accompanying health education messages can extend these activities to communities living outside the vicinity of the project area. Serious shortcomings of the current CHOP, consistently identified by the external monitoring groups, include the lack of a regional health plan, cumulative impact assessment, and provision of clean water and sanitation outside the narrowly defined project area. This point is of central importance, particularly for Chad, where access to clean water and improved sanitation facilities is low. Another limitation of the current CHOP is the insufficient amount of significance addressed to tuberculosis and the apparent lack of concerted control efforts against HIV infection, AIDS, and tuberculosis. These criticisms, however, must be balanced against the lack of clarity in international discourse about the proper extent of responsibility of the corporate sector for dealing with the health problems of countries in which they do business. In an elegant analysis, the environmental risk factor "unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene" was shown to be one of the major contributors to loss of healthy life, particularly in the developing world. Provision of clean water and sanitation is a key factor for sustainable control of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths. Reduction of helminth infections might have a beneficial effect on the HIV and AIDS pandemic. The question still remains: What is, or should be, the scope and limits of responsibility of the corporate sector in solving these problems? There is a critical need for the monitoring and evaluation of the long-term impact of a CHOP that develops in parallel with a large development project, emphasizing the broadest possible determinants of health and well-being. To become operational, it requires the establishment and running of a longitudinal demographic surveillance system in the area and in adjacent areas that are unlikely to be affected by the project. This approach, coupled with regular household surveys for in-depth appraisal of health-seeking and asset indices, is the most promising source of data for impact measurement of health, poverty, and equity-related issues. It will facilitate subtle monitoring and surveillance activities, fostering a truly systemic approach by inclusion of all stake holders on the basis of the existing but constantly evolving system.

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