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Oikocredit partners Crecer and Fonkoze shortlisted for European Microfinance Award 2021 for Inclusive Finance and Healthcare

Oikocredit partners Crecer and Fonkoze shortlisted for European Microfinance Award 2021 for Inclusive Finance and Healthcare

15 November | 2021

Two Oikocredit partners, Crecer IFD in Bolivia and Fonkoze in Haiti, are among the shortlisted finalists for the European Microfinance Award 2021 for Inclusive Finance & Healthcare.

Oikocredit is delighted to congratulate Crecer (Bolivia) and Fonkoze (Haiti) for being shortlisted for the European Microfinance Award 2021 for Inclusive Finance & Healthcare. Only three organisations were shortlisted out of 43 applications from 32 countries received by the European Microfinance Platform’s selection committee. The award winner will be chosen on 18 November and receive a € 100,000 prize, with € 10,000 for each runner-up.

Crecer and Fonkoze

Crecer IFD, an Oikocredit partner since 1999, is a non-bank financial institution providing savings and credit services for women in low-income communities in Bolivia. The country has very high cervical cancer mortality rates and low levels of access to screening and treatment. In response, Crecer’s cervical cancer prevention programme empowers women and develops their capacity for self-diagnostic and preventive care. The programme runs health campaigns, provides screening and teleconsultation services, and lends to clients to cover such costs as medical consultations, treatment, high-risk surgery, and medication and medical equipment purchases.

Fonkoze is a Haitian microfinance institution and an Oikocredit partner since 2002. Among other forms of support, Fonkoze’s non-profit foundation provides health screening and education to very low-income people in remote regions of the country where child mortality is among the highest in the world and where fewer than a quarter of households have adequate sanitation and access to healthcare is scarce. Recognising the impact of health shocks on its sister organisation’s mainly women clients, in 2014 Fonkoze Foundation launched its Boutik Santé programme, in which doctors and public health specialists train nurses, who in turn train microfinance clients and selected community health entrepreneurs to conduct basic health screenings, provide health education and procure health products.

Oikocredit’s Regional Director Latin America and Caribbean, Eduard Walkers, participated in the selection committee for the award shortlist in September 2021. Following the fair process rules of the committee, Eduard was not permitted to vote for Oikocredit’s partners, who were shortlisted by the other selectors.

Eduard says: “I’m not only excited about the award and about Crecer and Fonkoze being finalists. I am also very enthusiastic about healthcare and the role that we can play as Oikocredit.”

Oikocredit partners respond to the global healthcare challenge

About half of the world’s population lacks access to quality and affordable healthcare. “In rural areas of low-income countries, people may have to travel 50 km or more to see a doctor, and doctors may refer patients to medical specialists based more than 80 km, and sometimes 200-plus km, away,” says Eduard. Low-income people who need urgent specialist care, or regular visits, or who live in poorly connected locations, may have to spend hours travelling to healthcare providers and sometimes lose their daily wages. For these and similar reasons, every 11 seconds a woman or newborn dies somewhere in the world.

Aware of this level of need, many Oikocredit partners have a health programme. Illness is one of the primary reasons why people fall into poverty and why a significant number of our partners’ clients are unable to maintain loan repayments. The World Health Organization has estimated that for 100 million people health expenses are high enough to push them into extreme poverty and this has likely become worse during Covid-19. So a good number of Oikocredit’s microfinance institution partners and some agricultural partners have launched products or holistic programmes to address this urgent problem, including health savings and insurance products, health loans, and non-financial services such as health checks.

Added-value programmes are more important than ever because of digitisation and the rising fintech (financial technology) sector. MFIs that create such programmes are more competitive.

Eduard adds: “Health programmes should be high on the list for MFIs, ideally next to economic resilience, housing, water, community and education programmes. All of these areas are intertwined and interconnected.”

Transformation in healthcare

All along the health spectrum – from healthy living and prevention, to diagnosis, treatment and home care – digital companies are transforming the way healthcare can be delivered to currently excluded people. Today many apps are available, especially for healthy living and illness prevention, and accessibility is growing fast. Several Oikocredit partners now offer telemedicine services that provide diagnosis from a distance.

In treatment and home care, sophisticated solutions with huge potential impact are emerging. For example, a software solution that allows local healthcare professionals in underserved communities to enhance prenatal and maternal care via a mobile device. This allows caregivers to identify and manage high-risk pregnancies and to track mother and child post-delivery, contributing to healthier pregnancies and better early childhood health.

“MFIs could increasingly offer such solutions,” says Eduard. “These and similar services across the health spectrum, if effectively delivered, should result in an improved patient experience, better outcomes and lower cost, ensuring that nobody is left behind.”

A role for Oikocredit

With so much to be accomplished to deliver healthcare to all the world’s low-income people, how can Oikocredit support progress? And is there an opportunity cost in supporting private health rather than public health?

With many of Oikocredit’s partners around the world undertaking fascinating health initiatives and amassing plenty of experience, Eduard’s suggestion is for Oikocredit to set up a peer-to-peer (P2P) exchange programme. Or, even simpler, Oikocredit could enable partners to share ideas and experiences via teleconferences and webinars and take it from there. As part of it’s new strategy for 2022-2026, Oikocredit will explore these questions and ideas further.

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