Combining microfinance and health

Microfinance Focus, January 24, 2012: Microcredit Summit Campaign and Freedom from Hunger have joined hands to reach more than 700,000 microfinance clients with health education and services over the next five years.

The goal of the alliance is to work globally on several levels to create a more enabling environment for integrating microfinance and health. A significant proportion of the resources to support the work and expansion of the alliance are being provided through a grant from Johnson & Johnson

The alliance will use India as a demonstration and model of what can be achieved on a global scale. Deaths of Indian children currently account for 20 percent of all worldwide childhood mortality. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) currently serving 71 million rural poor, could help reduce these deaths by serving as a critical intermediary for the provision of much needed health education and services.

Clients participating in this integrated approach will bring the benefits of microfinance and health protection home affecting an estimated 3.7 million family members in all. Integration of health with microfinance is also cost effective.

"For nearly a decade, the Microcredit Summit Campaign has addressed the link between ill health and poverty through its commissioned papers and global summit workshops and courses. This alliance with Freedom from Hunger is another step towards facing this problem head-on by championing the delivery of integrated health protection services. Providing low cost ways for people living in poverty to maintain their own health and care for the health needs of other family members is an essential part of achieving our goal of seeing 100 million families move out of severe poverty," said Campaign director Larry Reed.

Commenting further on the announcement, Freedom from Hunger president Steve Hollingworth said, "Our long-term vision is to cultivate communities of practice for the global expansion of the integration of microfinance and health and to create a true change in the way that the global community of practitioners, thought leaders, policymakers, and funders approach health protection and poverty alleviation for the world's hungry."

Johnson & Johnson corporate contributions director Joy Marini added, "It seems so simple -- teach mothers and fathers basic health information to build healthier families. However, reaching the most marginalized families is difficult. I commend the Microcredit Summit Campaign and Freedom from Hunger for their innovative thinking. Their model of collaborating with local microfinance institutions to reach small communities in India is already showing positive results."


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The Critical Metrics of Poverty

The provision of financial services will definitely create a pointer in the path to fighting poverty, but as seems to come from this initiative, the critical challenge is not getting money and financial services to the poor, it is addressing the two other metrics sorted that of knowledge/education and food/nutrition.

But as will become clear, having a health and financial product is not the is the creation of a more organized framework of delivering nutrition knowledge, financial services and combining this with agricultural production. It seems to be finally coming to the realization of micro financial thinkers that microfinance should be seen more from the livelihood model again not in isolation but as a composite product with others

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