The personnel at Basoko Health Center in Kindu Health Zone in the Democratic Republic of Congo learn how to use the Safe Delivery App smartphone app. On the right is Raphael Adimba, head nurse at the health center, sitting next to Anjelani Imurani, head of maternity at Bsoko. (Photo by Davis Makasy/IMA World Health)


One of IMA World Health’s core values is Empowering Partnerships, and it was in this spirit of collaboration that IMA exercised leadership at home and in the field this year.

“What IMA does is look at our partnerships and create a sense of mutuality between us and our partners,” IMA President and CEO Rick Santos said at the Partnership for Quality Medical Donations 2018 Global Health Policy Forum. “You have to approach them as equals.”

Local governments and organizations are positioned best to address their own public health challenges. Working alongside these partners, IMA helps them to develop the skills and ownership to implement their solutions. Leading through empowerment is a long-term investment. It takes time to teach and supervise, and to build capacity and self-sufficiency, but the results are far more effective and sustainable, maximizing our impact while minimizing our footprint.

“What IMA does is look at our partnerships and create a sense of mutuality between us and our partners.” – Rick Santos, President and CEO

Capacity building. IMA has continued to build the capacity of health workers at all levels, from national administrators to community health volunteers, to strengthen health systems and the delivery of health services in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan—even amid active conflicts in both countries this year. We have also invested in the power of local community groups and faith leaders to encourage healthy behaviors and to reduce the stigma for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and people living with HIV.

Sharing knowledge. This year, IMA made a significant effort to share our expertise and key lessons learned with our partners in the global public health community. Knowledge has no impact unless it is shared and put to use, and presenting our research and best practices publicly saves and improves lives beyond the scope of IMA projects.

Advancing health technologies. IMA’s expertise in health information systems and monitoring and evaluation continues to deepen, resulting in advancements in how we use and share data to strengthen programs, inform decision-making and support local governments and partners. This year, we also invested time in piloting new technologies to remain at the forefront of innovation to best support those we serve.

In short, IMA’s leadership enhances lives of the vulnerable communities we serve, effectively and sustainably.

2018 Leadership Snapshots

Mutual benefit: IMA and Brigham Young University partner to lead

Team members from BYU, IMA World Health and the University of Indonesia meet with government officials from the Ministry of Health in Pulang Pisau District, Central Kalimantan. (Photo by IMA World Health staff)

In 2018, IMA and BYU forged a new partnership that allowed students in the university’s College of Life Sciences to gain practical research experience while adding to IMA’s scientific depth. Working with IMA staff, students used concepts and research tools from the classroom to analyze real-world data from the National Nutrition Communications Campaign in Indonesia.

While the students gained meaningful field experience and valuable feedback from IMA staff, IMA received critical research support to fully leverage the project’s data to ensure even more children in Indonesia will avoid the lifelong consequences of malnutrition and stunting.

Sharing our expertise with the global health community

Stunting. This year, IMA was selected to present a record eight abstracts at the Social and Behavior Change Communication Summit 2018 in Bali, Indonesia, April 16-20. These presentations, powered in large part by our partnership with Brigham Young University and the University of Indonesia, centered on IMA’s work to combat stunting in Indonesia and Tanzania.

Also at the summit, IMA nutritionist Generose Mulokozi, Ph.D., joined a panel of experts to discuss how evidence can drive nutritional programming using the ASTUTE program, implemented by IMA and funded by UK aid, as a model. She said a thorough review of literature and consideration of optimal practices were the first steps in evidence-based programming, followed by identifying supports and barriers to best practices, collecting context-specific data, and securing government involvement.  

“When data are used systematically to design strategies, the impact of our programs is maximized,” Mulokozi said.

Generose Mulokozi, Ph.D., speaking at the 2018 SBCC Summit in Bali, Indonesia. (Photo by Ahmad Syafiq/IMA World Health)

Health Systems Strengthening. Also in April, IMA CEO Rick Santos spoke about the importance of partnerships in supporting public health ecosystems on a panel at the PQMD 2018 Global Health Policy Forum. In his presentation, Santos highlighted IMA’s decade-long success in leading health systems strengthening efforts in post-conflict, active conflict and developing countries by empowering local entities. Our key to success: Leading with a focus on long-term commitment, mutuality and flexibility.

Empowering faith leaders against HIV

In Malawi, more than 90 percent of people practice faith in some form, giving faith leaders unique standing in their communities and, consequently, unique power to promote healthy choices. This year, IMA’s work on the USAID-funded AIDSFree project mobilized a group of faith leaders in Dedza, Malawi, to educate their community members on prevention of  mother-to-child transmission of HIV, or PMTCT, and to encourage healthy behaviors and use of PMTCT services.

One of the key goals was to build the capacity of our partner MANERELA+, the Malawi Network of Religious Leaders living with HIV/AIDS, to engage with faith communities to influence these health-seeking behaviors.

IMA worked with religious leaders to develop contextually appropriate “key messages” on PMTCT and trained them on how to deliver them. The faith leaders then promoted the key messages during awareness campaigns, couples counseling, youth forums, couple symposiums, mothers group meetings, male champion group meetings, and worship services at their church or mosque.The trained religious leaders referred pregnant women and their partners for testing and PMTCT services, developed relationships with local health providers to strengthen community efforts to protect the next generation from HIV, and reached 11,333 people in total with the key messages.

In Malawi, IMA trained and mobilized a group of faith leaders who educated 11,333 people on ways to prevent the spread of HIV.

New technology solves old problems in DRC

IMA technical team memeber Carlos Nyembwe searches for an internet connection in an ASSP Project area in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo by IMA World Health staff)

IMA continues to lead powerful efforts to strengthen health systems and enhance service delivery in the Democratic Republic of Congo through the Accès Aux Soins de Santé Primaires or ASSP, funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. Despite active conflict in some of our project areas this year, IMA continued to deliver innovative solutions in the DRC’s unique context.

Ebola. In 2014, IMA introduced the District Health Information System 2 to the DRC to monitor health data, and by December 2016 the DHIS2 system was used by all 516 of ASSP’s health zones for routine data collection. In May 2018, the Ministry of Health requested four ASSP staff to support critical Ebola data-visualization work as part of the response to the Ebola outbreak in western DRC. This work included supporting the setup of the electronic database—as part of the national DHIS2 system—to capture patient and contact data, and to monitor and evaluate information as it became available through data dashboards. Thanks to this work, DRC officials could track the outbreak and make tactical decisions to contain it. The outbreak lasted less than three months.

Mobile education for safer deliveries. While working on her doctoral degree, former IMA country director Nancy Bolan was looking for a cost-effective way to provide continuing education for health workers on emergency obstetrics and newborn care using smartphones. This year, Bolan worked with IMA and the Ministry of Health to test The Maternity Foundation’s Safe Delivery App  with health workers in ASSP-supported facilities in the Maniema province, an under-resourced area with some of the poorest maternal and newborn health outcomes in the DRC. The app acts as a continuing education tool for health workers, walking them through the crucial steps to manage a health emergency in more effective ways. After three months, the team found that the app gave health workers greater confidence in how to deal with emergencies, specifically post-partum hemorrhage and neonatal resuscitation. A research paper on this work is awaiting publication.

Piloting new technologies helps us remain at the forefront of innovation to best support those we serve.

Tushinde: Overcoming Violence Community by Community

On International Women’s Day in March, IMA launched a new iteration of our highly successful program to empower communities to respond to and prevent gender-based violence in eastern DRC. The USAID-IMA World Health Counter-Gender Based Violence Program (known locally in Swahili as “Tushinde Ujeuri”) establishes community-based safe houses and supports community groups to prevent and respond to GBV with the goal of reducing violence, resolving stigma and improving holistic care for survivors. 

Our holistic approach first meets survivors’ basic health needs, including urgent medical care and psychosocial counseling. Survivors then receive referrals to project-supported legal clinics, where our partners from the American Bar Association-Rule of Law Initiative provide legal support, advising survivors of their rights and representing them. The project also provides various socioeconomic and livelihood activities such as village savings and loan associations, literacy circles, women’s empowerment groups and more to help survivors gain financial independence and social support. Together, these activities restore health, dignity, justice and opportunity.

By providing tools the communities and their leaders can use to prevent and address GBV, this approach facilitates community ownership of gender equality, violence prevention and holistic care for survivors.

Village savings and loan associations teach financial literacy, provide a sense of belonging and give participants an opportunity to take out small loans to support their businesses, help with family emergencies and more. (Photo by Crystal Stafford/IMA World Health)

Empowering Girls and Women for an AIDS Free Future

Through the USAID/Kenya and East Africa Afya Jijini Program, IMA uses the Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS free, Mentored and Safe, or DREAMS, intervention in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, with the goals of empowering adolescent girls and young women and reducing their HIV risk. IMA implements DREAMS activities for AGYW aged 10-24 at established adolescent-friendly sites and safe spaces, addressing the structural factors that increase girls’ risk of HIV infection, such as poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence and a lack of education. The DREAMS team has enrolled more than 6,000 AGYW in the program, providing gender-based violence trainings to them, their male partners, and family members; conducting HIV testing services; providing cash transfers and education subsidies, connecting AGYW to vocational training and working with AGYW mentors to provide trainings on life skills, family planning choices and HIV prevention to their peers.