When a partnership works

Mckline is almost two years old and lives with his parents, Catherine and Fredrick. The family’s home is a one-room house which doubles up as a shop for Fredrick’s battery charging and electronics repairs business. Catherine grows vegetables in their garden and helps at the shop. They are already saving up for Mckline’s education and have ambitions for him to be an engineer one day.


Mckline is one of the lucky ones. He was the first baby born at a healthcare facility in Bungoma County, Kenya, that is supported by GSK and Save the Children’s groundbreaking partnership. 


His mother, Catherine, is also lucky. Every two hours in Kenya, a woman dies during childbirth, devastating her surviving family members with grief. Not Catherine – the Bungoma County facility helped deliver her baby safely, ensured he was vaccinated free of charge and taught both of his parents all about nutrition and how to feed him.


Save the Children recently spoke to Mckline’s parents about the effect his birth had on others in their community. Catherine explained that she saw “many mothers die when they delivered at home”, and that her successful delivery in hospital set a good example: “most expectant mothers [now] come to me for advice and I send them to hospital”.


Since Mckline’s birth, 47 health facilities in Bungoma County have benefitted from our partnership with GSK. We’ve trained healthcare workers on emergency obstetric and neonatal care, infection prevention and Kangaroo Mother Care. We’ve supported the renovation of maternity wards, and we’ve provided solar panels and water tanks to clinics without electricity or clean water. Neither one of us could have been able to do this alone. 


Since 2000, significant progress has been made to reduce the rate of child deaths around the globe. Still almost 6 million children under the age of five die every year from preventable diseases. This – helping to deliver babies like Mckline safely into the world and making sure they stay healthy and happy – is the driving force behind our ambitious global partnership. 


When the GSK and Save the Children partnership was formed in 2013, it raised some eyebrows.  To us, the logic was clear: by coming together, our organisations could save more children’s lives than by working alone. Three years on, we’ve reached over 1.3 million with lifesaving interventions. It is also pioneering a new model of corporate/NGO collaboration that can be adopted, replicated and expanded.


Our partnership has been successful because we’ve challenged each other to work together in new and different ways. We agreed early on to move beyond the traditional corporate/NGO model and build a relationship that is deeper than funding alone, thinking creatively about how each organisation could support the work of the other. We’ve got to the point where ideas and projects are developed and implemented together, making the most of our respective strengths. Secondments and dedicated teams within both Save the Children and GSK provide invaluable exchanges of knowledge, advice and technical know-how across many disciplines and countries. All of this is rooted in trust and openness, strong relationships, and a shared vision.


Working together in this way has helped us to identify more and better opportunities for collaboration than we had originally planned for. We’ve gone from five to ten workstreams, spread across 37 countries and joined forces in new areas: for example, we’ve recently enhanced each other’s speed and capacity in responding to humanitarian emergencies. The partnership has also sparked transformational changes in each of our ways of working, better enabling us to reach those in most need. For example, Save the Children has used GSK expertise to shore up supply chain systems; and GSK has made the most of Save the Children’s knowledge of remote communities to improve access to medicine in hard-to-reach locations.


While recognising that we’re only halfway through our journey together, and there is still so much more to do, we’re incredibly proud of what we have achieved so far. A laser focus on our shared ambition will help us to stay on course, and we will constantly challenge ourselves to make sure we’re reaching every last child.


Tanya Steele is interim CEO at Save the Children.

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