Last Mile Health joined world leaders, policymakers, and partners in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for Reaching the Last Mile Forum and COP28, the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. COP28 included the first-ever COP Health Day, drawing attention to the critical intersection between climate and health.
Alongside our colleagues, we elevated the essential role of community health workers in combating the adverse health impacts climate change is already inflicting on communities around the world. Notable milestones and engagements included a commitment to shared principles for scaling community health in Africa, recognition of the lifetime achievements of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and a global health and climate declaration endorsed by 123 countries.
Africa Frontline First partnership commitment
On the main stage at Reaching the Last Mile Forum, a coalition of partners renewed and strengthened their joint support for community health workers alongside Africa Frontline First, an initiative co-led by Last Mile Health. The historic announcement included commitments to coordinate financing behind country agendas and a commitment by the Global Fund of US$900 million for community health over the next 3 years—74% of which will be invested in African countries.
Partners in the announcement included the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund), the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Africa Frontline First, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), ELMA Philanthropies, the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), USAID, and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Lifetime Achievement Award
Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first elected female head of state in Africa, a Nobel Peace Laureate, and a relentless champion of community health. At Reaching the Last Mile Forum, H.E. Sirleaf received the lifetime achievement award in recognition of her tireless efforts to bring essential healthcare to last mile communities.
As President of Liberia, H.E. Sirleaf guided the country through the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and spearheaded the development of Liberia’s exemplary national community health worker program, which has since deployed more than 4,000 paid community health workers to serve nearly 1 million Liberians. We are honored to have partnered with her in these efforts.
Now, we’re collaborating to tackle one of the biggest barriers to scaling community health workforces globally: financing. Under the championship of H.E. Sirleaf, Last Mile Health, Community Health Impact Coalition, and Financing Alliance for Health are working to accelerate the movement for health equity through Africa Frontline First.
Reaching the Last Mile Forum Panel: Building Climate Resilient Health Systems
“We must start now. An essential step is affirming strong policies and investing in systems that support professional community health workers.” – Lisha McCormick on building health systems capable of withstanding disease threats and climate shocks.
Last Mile Health Chief Executive Officer Lisha McCormick joined experts from around the world for a conversation on the work to build resilient health systems amid a changing climate.
Drawing on experience across geographies, and with a special focus on the role of community health workers, panelists discussed what has worked—and what has not—in efforts to deliver equitable healthcare and reach last-mile communities. Moderator Dr. Angela Gichaga, Chief Executive Officer of Financing Alliance for Health and Co-Executive Director of Africa Frontline First, guided a conversation on challenges to equity in health, the status of professional community health workers as essential pillars of healthcare delivery, and lessons lessons the world learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and Ebola epidemic.
Climate and Health Declaration
More than 120 countries backed the COP28 UAE Climate and Health Declaration, which acknowledges the growing health impacts of climate change on communities and countries. Malawi served as a country champion for the declaration, demonstrating their continued leadership at the intersection of climate and health.
“Climate change is increasingly impacting the health and wellbeing of our communities. Malawi has experienced these impacts first-hand – extreme weather events have displaced tens of thousands of our citizens and sparked infectious disease outbreaks that have killed thousands more. This year, at COP28, we are calling for a bolder path forward that prioritizes investments in health and wellbeing, ensures a just transition away from fossil fuels, and creates a healthier future for all of us.” – Lazarus Chakwera, President of Malawi.
Community health workers in Malawi served a vital role responding to health impacts of climate-driven flooding from Cyclone Freddy and the nation’s worst-ever cholera outbreak in 2023.
Events at Reaching the Last Mile Forum and COP 28 affirmed the critical role of community health workers in resilient health systems that can adapt to disease and climate threats, and achieve universal health coverage.
As we look ahead to worsening health impacts of a changing climate, we must continue to build the capacity of professional community health workers, ensuring they are skilled, salaried, supplied, and supervised as part of a well-functioning community health system operating at national scale.