Celebrate improving maternal and child health in the Philippines

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Over the past 20 years, the Philippines has enjoyed an increase in life expectancy, improved access to education and economic opportunity, and a decrease in communicable diseases. However, maternal health has lagged behind, and as 2015 draws to a close, the world will be reflecting on the Millennium Development Goals like #5, “Improve maternal health.” Three development organizations took action in 2014 to tackle this challenge and are now celebrating what has been achieved, new partnerships that have been formed, and plans for moving forward.

Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign partnered with CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to implement a project called “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay.” The project is supported by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson and will conclude at the end of 2015.

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Better health for every woman and every child in the Philippines

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The maternal mortality rate in the Philippines is among the highest in Southeast Asia. To help improve maternal health in the Philippines, three development institutions have come together to implement the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay Project. Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign are partnering with CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to implement an 18-month project to provide access to health education and healthcare, build sustainability of such services, and document evidence of improved lives. The project is supported by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson.

More than 800,000 women have received vital information to ensure healthy pregnancies, and thousands more will. At community health fairs like you see in the short video above, thousands of women have received free OB/GYN consultations, have signed up for the national health insurance, PhilHealth, and have received free prenatal vitamins. We’re reaching for better health for every woman and every child. Join us.

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Free ultrasounds draw thousands to community health fairs

A doctor provides free checkups as part of a health outreach program in the Philippines. Photo by: CARD MRI

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World leaders are convening in New York this week to finalize the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, an ambitious plan that will build on the successes and tackle problems where the Millennium Development Goals fell short. Freedom from Hunger and the Microcredit Summit Campaign are partnering with CARD Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI) to implement an 18-month project to address one of these MDG achievement gaps: maternal health in the Philippines. The project, “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay,” is supported by an educational grant from Johnson & Johnson and will wrap up in December.

We have prepared a newsletter to let you know how things are going. To receive a copy of the newsletter, please sign up for our integrated health and microfinance news mailing list. Here is a sneak peek at the first issue of our Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Kalinga kay Inay Project Newsletter.


Charyle is 32 years old and nine months pregnant with her fourth child. She attended the Davao City community health fair organized in July by CARD MRI, a Philippine microfinance institution (MFI), with partners from the MFIs for Health consortium.

Charyle was very excited to get an ultrasound. While Charyle goes monthly to a nearby health center for prenatal checkups, this was likely her first ultrasound. Charyle plans to deliver at a birthing center (an affordable alternative to a hospital for low-risk pregnancies). “I like it [the birthing center] better because it’s more personal,” she said. “I have PhilHealth, which helps with costs and point-of-care service.”

CARD has made a point to engage the local health insurance office of the Philippines’ national health insurance program, PhilHealth, in the fairs. Many women do not know the benefits or financial savings of PhilHealth membership, such as the fact that a year’s premium is less than a typical uninsured delivery. So, they provide orientation, enrollment of non-members, and other services to health fair attendees.

Irish (27) is four months pregnant with her first child. She has visited a health clinic three times already and plans to deliver at a regional hospital because she has hypertension. “So,” said Irish, “I think I will look at PhilHealth while at this health fair.”

Barrera (30) is 8 months pregnant with her fourth child. Barrera learned of the fair during her prenatal visit at the health center, which is within walking distance and offers free prenatal checkups. She said she decided to come to the fair “For the ultrasound — to be able to see my baby. It was my first time.” Berrera also plans to deliver at her local birthing center. “It is walking distance from where I live, and it is PhilHealth accredited, so free.”

Charyle, Irish, and Barrera were among 435 women who attended the two fairs; however, they were not typical in their prenatal care and delivery plans. OB/GYNs, general physicians, pediatricians, and other medical professionals provided services to these women that many normally would not be able to access or afford. In the four health fairs held so far, some 3600 pregnant and lactating women have gotten a free check-up.

HMHB_CMYK_English_Beveled

What else is in the newsletter?

Increasing Healthcare Access

Through “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies,” 8,000 women of child bearing age (primarily pregnant and lactating women) will receive education and preventive services through five community health fairs by the end of 2015. Women from the local community and surrounding areas access maternal health products and services like urine tests, OB/GYN consults, ultrasounds, sonograms, and vitamins provided by BotiCARD (part of the CARD family). Such services are otherwise unavailable them. The next health fair will be October 2-3 in rural communities in Mindanao. Contact Mharra de Mesa to learn more.

What’s in the Mother and Baby Kit?

health-kit_HMHB-PH_Oct2014_Courtesy-of-CARD-MRI

Building Capacity to Provide Health Education

What does it take to deliver maternal health education to 600,000 women? In January 2015, 17 CARD staff and 1 nurse took part in a training of trainers (ToT) on the maternal and child health education module, “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities.” In March, four members of MFIs for Health — ASA Philippines Foundation Inc., KMBI, TSPI, and CCT — joined the Integration Workshop and ToT facilitated by CARD MRI. Learn how CARD is taking a leadership role in the Philippines to extend health products and services to more microfinance clients. Contact Cassie Chandler to learn more about the education module.

“MFIs for Health” Provide Health Services to Poor Communities

The Filipino “MFIs for Health” consortium expanded to 21 microfinance institutions (MFIs) in May when they inked a Memorandum of Agreement to provide access to health care services to poor communities. “The microfinance industry has grown so much over the past year,” Sen. Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino said. “It is crucial that the MFI industry should continue to innovate…and unlock more accessible opportunities that go beyond financing and bring it to our countrymen especially in the areas who have less opportunities.” Learn how the Filipino microfinance sector is mobilizing to improve the health of poor communities. Contact MAHPSecretariat@gmail.com to learn more.

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Does your microfinance program improve newborn survival?

Products provided to microfinance clients through the “Healthy Mothers, Health Babies” project in the Philippines implemented by the Microcredit Summit Campaign, Freedom from Hunger, and CARD MRI. The products included are selected for their usefulness to women soon to give birth.

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>>Authored by Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Research from the World Health Organization shows that half of the decline in under-5 child deaths is due to factors outside the health sector. In addition to health improvements, advancements in girls’ education, women’s economic status, water, sanitation and hygiene, energy, and infrastructure all make a vital difference. We believe that the microfinance sector has an important role to play in bringing child mortality down even further.

At the Microcredit Summit Campaign, we know how powerful integrating health programs can be. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) that offer health products and services to their clients help them to manage shocks and improve the health of clients and their families. In partnership with Freedom from Hunger and with the support of Johnson & Johnson, we are working with microfinance partners in India and the Philippines to provide health products and services to hundreds of thousands of families.

In the Philippines, our project focuses on improved health outcomes for pregnant women and their newborns. To date, CARD MRI (our local partner) has delivered the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” education to nearly 300,000 women clients. The education is delivered using an innovative pictorial learning conversation (PLC) methodology developed by Freedom from Hunger. This PLC module distills important information about pre- and post-natal care into easily digested 15-minute segments.

An image from the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” PLC. It teaches about the importance of visiting a health facility throughout the pregnancy.

An image from the “Healthy Pregnancies Make Healthy Communities” PLC. It teaches about the importance of visiting a health facility throughout the pregnancy. Contact Cassie Chandler at Freedom from Hunger to learn more about the education module.

At the Community Health Day events organized under the project, thousands of women (pregnant and with newborns) also get free consultations and medical checkups — many for the very first time. In addition, attendees have learned important information for ensuring healthy pregnancies and healthy newborns. Medical professionals have delivered lectures on family planning, signs and symptoms to be aware of during pregnancy, as well as prenatal care like nutrition during pregnancy and post-natal care like breastfeeding or caring for a newborn.

The Campaign is helping CARD and other members of the MFIs for Health consortium to leverage this small, one-time grant by building a strong, local resource base for their work. Through our Campaign Commitments, we are mobilizing microfinance actors around the world to take specific, measurable, and time-bound actions to address the multiple dimensions of poverty. We hope to do the same in the Philippines to improve the health of microfinance clients and their families.

Mapping integrated solutions

An effort is underway to develop a new online map to capture such programs around the world. Called the Newborn Survival Map, this initiative hopes to encourage the development of cross-sector partnerships delivering integrated solutions. In our experience, when an MFI hesitates to introduce health programs, it is often because they say that their job is to provide financial services, not health. In this case, partnering with health development organizations and other health sector actors is a viable alternative to offering health services in-house. The map could direct your organization to potential future partners in health.

The Newborn Survival Map will initially focus on 16 countries where newborn deaths are concentrated (see the map below). It will focus on programs with a total value of US$500,000 and above across 14 different sectors whose work greatly impacts newborn survival. Note that this threshold is for the life of the project and represents a total investment. Investments will also be tracked by sub-region, so it may be that an organization has a series of smaller investments in different locations or over a period of time, but the total current and planned investment for their work in a sub-region may equal or exceed the $500,000 threshold.

Priority countries (MDG 4, child mortality)

Priority countries are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Ethiopia, Angola, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Uganda, Afghanistan, Tanzania, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Niger. Send in your program information by August 24th to be sure that you are included in the Newborn Survival Map.

The initiative is led by FHI 360, an international development organization, in partnership with the MDG Health Alliance and Johnson & Johnson. FHI 360 and partners invite actors in the microfinance sector to take part in this exciting initiative. We encourage you, our audience, to make sure that significant microfinance programs — especially those benefiting women of reproductive age — are represented on The Newborn Survival Map.

The Newborn Survival Map is in collaboration with the Every Newborn Action Plan and in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman Every Child movement.

Take action today!

Email Christina Blumel (cblumel[at]fhi360.org) with the name and email of a contact person in your organization who will be responsible for getting your microfinance program included on the map. Christina will guide your colleague through the necessary steps to an online form, which takes approximately 20 minutes to fill out.

Many thanks for your partnership as we enter the Sustainable Development Goal era where achievement of the ambitious new goals will require unprecedented levels of collaboration. Read the letter from Leith Greenslade of the MDG Health Alliance inviting your organization to be part of this exciting initiative (and en français).

About the organizations responsible for the map

The MDG Health Alliance is an initiative of the UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for Malaria. The Alliance operates in support of Every Woman Every Child, an unprecedented global movement spearheaded by the Secretary-General to mobilize and intensify global action to improve the health of women and children.

FHI 360 is a nonprofit human development organization dedicated to improving lives in lasting ways by advancing integrated, locally driven solutions. Our staff includes experts in health, education, nutrition, environment, economic development, civil society, gender, youth, research and technology — creating a unique mix of capabilities to address today’s interrelated development challenges. FHI 360 serves more than 70 countries and all U.S. states and territories.

At Johnson & Johnson, our Credo inspires our strategic philanthropy to advance the health of communities in which we live and work, and the world community as well. We focus on saving and improving the lives of women and children, preventing disease among the most vulnerable, and strengthening the health care workforce. Together with our partners, we are making life-changing, long-term differences in human health.


Related reading

Measuring what’s important: client transformation

Research Results ESAF India

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Published on the Center for Financial Inclusion’s blog April 15th.

Measuring Transformation

>> Posted by Bobbi Gray, Research Director, Freedom from Hunger

While recent research indicates that access to and use of microcredit alone is not transformative for the average client served (see “Where Credit Is Due“), there has been very little discussion about the types of indicators being used to measure “transformation” in the ongoing debates. In fact, it seems that we all have accepted the general findings that microcredit has only had modest impacts on, along with other indicators of poverty and well-being, education, health, and social capital because the randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have said so. There needs to be greater thought and debate about the choices of indicators used to support these conclusions.

Freedom from Hunger over the past 20-plus years has integrated health with microfinance and helped build a body of knowledge indicating that microfinance plus health services can enhance health outcomes. In an ongoing partnership with the Microcredit Summit Campaign, supported by Johnson & Johnson, we have pilot-tested a series of health indicators that financial service providers (FSPs) can use to track client health outcomes. This pilot test was built on years of experience of evaluating health outcomes with our FSP partners, as well as on similar experiences of developing common tracking indicators in the health sector. We created a list of criteria to assess the types of indicators we felt would be meaningful to track—for individuals with and without health services – which included dimensions of feasibility, usability, and reliability. Initial results have been shared in several webinars with SEEP and the Social Performance Task Force.

It’s important to note that this pilot test effort was not about “proving” impact, but rather developing common techniques for monitoring client outcomes that FSPs could use over time. However, this experience has shown how difficult it is to identify indicators that best measure certain health outcomes. What initially might appear as an intuitive indicator to use — for example, how often a person reports being ill or seeking medical treatment — is found to be more difficult than expected. Morbidity — or reports of illness — is not an easy measure for health sector actors or those who directly work to improve health outcomes because it is influenced by the seasons, by specific efforts, and other factors, so care has to be taken when interpreting results. Reports of seeking medical treatment are complicated by whether people are satisfied with the services they can seek and may not always reflect financial capability but preferences or lack of available health services.

Read the rest of the article

Relevant resources

Partnership building to reduce the Philippines’ maternal mortality rate

health-education_HMHB-PH_Oct2014_Courtesy-of-CARD-MRI

Women learn about family planning techniques while they wait for their exams at October’s community health fair.

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Pathway

Microfinance savings and/or borrowing groups linked with health education, health financing, and health product delivery


>>Authored by Camille Rivera, Senior Program Associate, and Sabina Rogers, Communications & Relationships Manager

HMHB_CMYK_English_BeveledWith the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit in the Philippines, we wrote a new chapter in the evolution of the Microcredit Summit Campaign. The 16th Microcredit Summit focused on how public-private partnerships could combine expertise from the field of microfinance with other areas to develop more efficient and sustainable services for the extreme poor.

We have since created one such collaboration in order to address the problem of stubbornly high maternal mortality rates in the Philippines. While the country has experienced strong economic growth in recent years and the government has instituted a national hospital insurance scheme, PhilHealth, maternal mortality is at 221 per 100,000 live births. The Philippines are far off track of their maternal mortality MDG of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births.

It is a long way to go from 221 to 52 in the next few months, but when offered the opportunity to scale up in a short period of time our integrated health and microfinance methodology, we (with Freedom from Hunger) jumped at the chance. In partnership with a local partner CARD MRI (the largest social development organization providing micro-financial services in the Philippines) and with the financial and strategic support of Johnson & Johnson, we are implementing the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies project (HMHB, or “Kalinga Kay Inay” by its name in Tagalog).

Photo credit: Cassie Chandler

Photo credit: Cassie Chandler

How it works

The idea is simple: offer free health check-ups and behavior change education on health topics to pregnant and lactating women to create positive health outcomes. By the end of 2015, CARD and other MFIs will educate 600,000 women to improve maternal health and safe deliveries of infants, birth outcomes, and reduce preventable maternal death; and 8,000 pregnant or lactating women will be directly connected to relevant services and products. CARD and partners have held two community health fairs so far, and for many of these women, it was their very first gynecological exam.

At these health fairs, CARD sets up tents to give shade to those waiting outside. Inside the building, as the women wait for their preliminary exams (and, if necessary, ultrasounds), they learn about family planning. The volunteer health providers (doctors, OB-GYN, midwives, and others) write prescriptions for those who need medications, and BotiCARD (a CARD MRI institution) fill them for free in a tent set up outside.

CARD has found their collaboration with local government and public health units to be vital in getting higher-than-expected turnout to the fairs as well as for identifying local health providers for CARD members. Local administrators of PhilHealth have joined our January health fair and provided services to 179 health fair patients ranging from members’ renewal enrollment, new enrollment, membership updating, and printing of members’ data information.

Making these changes lasting changes

More importantly to us, through this endeavor, we are working to improve the scalability and sustainability of delivery of health education and related services to millions of women and children in the Philippines. Inspired by the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit, the Campaign’s role in the HMHB project is to reach beyond the traditional microfinance actors and facilitate a partnership-building process for the “MFIs for Health” consortium, a group of 18 MFIs who are banding together to increase access for their communities to health-related products and services.

A doctor provides free checkups as part of a health outreach program in the Philippines. Photo by: CARD MRI

A doctor provides free checkups as part of a health outreach program in the Philippines.
Photo by: CARD MRI

We are talking with several foundations, corporations, and associations to identify specific ways that they can work with us and MFIs for Health to increase access to and improve delivery of healthcare services. The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) and JPHIEGO in the Philippines are two organizations that have joined forces with our alliance — whether formally or informally. They have facilitated introductions to local government units (LGUs) and the Integrated Midwives Association of the Philippines to recruit healthcare providers as volunteers for the health fair and get their help spreading the word to their patients. In fact, ZFF and CARD are working with the Rural Health Unit (RHU) in the Visayas to coincide the RHU’s “Buntis Congress” (Pregnant Women’s Congress) with CARD’s April community health fair. Through this coordination, we are pooling resources and thus gain a larger potential impact for the community.

April is the Month of MicrofinanceLearn more

April is the Month of Microfinance
Learn more

This strategy behind HMHB, to facilitate partnerships between microfinance actors and players in other sectors, parallels efforts to create more integrated approaches to solve the most pressing needs of the extreme poor. In this case, we are addressing maternal and child health; in Ethiopia, it could be fistula and, in India, it could be non-communicable diseases.

Because MFIs meet regularly with large numbers of clients, they serve as an ideal platform to convey health information and services to clients who often build relationships of trust with their loan officers, as well as other members in their group. These exchanges can also have a replicator effect as clients are encouraged to share the information with their family members and others in their community.

By forging partnerships across sectors and bringing in non-traditional actors to microfinance, the Campaign is maximizing the best aspects of each player and (hopefully) helping the Philippines reduce their maternal mortality rate to 52 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Relevant resources

Millennium Development Goal 5: Progress and challenges in maternal mortalitySource: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

Millennium Development Goal 5: Progress and challenges in maternal mortality
Source: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation

The Campaign in 2014: Making Progress Toward Ending Extreme Poverty

Expokonool vendors being recognized in the closing ceremony for their hard work

At the 17th Microcredit Summit, Expokonool vendors were recognized in the closing ceremony for their hard work

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As we come to the end of the year, we reflect on 2014.

In 2014, we more than DOUBLED the number of Campaign Commitments, and in the past two years, 54 Commitments have been announced by 48 organizations, including AGFUND, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), BRAC, Grassroots Capital Management, Red Financiera Rural, Oikocredit, and Grameen Foundation. These organizations join a coalition to advance the industry toward helping 100 million families lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

With the first 5 installments of the Campaign’s new E-Workshop Series featuring Commitment-making organizations, more than 400 participants learned important practical lessons on innovations and tools that work to support those making the journey out of extreme poverty.

Organizations that made a Campaign Commitment are recognized on stage at the 17th Microcredit Summit in Mexico.

Organizations that made a Campaign Commitment were recognized on stage at the 17th Microcredit Summit in Mexico.

17th Microcredit Summit #17MCSummitIn September, 875 people from 60 countries joined us at the 17th Microcredit Summit in Mexico, including high-level dignitaries like Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, Yucatán Governor Rolando Zapata Bello, and Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus. The agenda focused on the theme “Generation Next: Innovations in Microfinance.”

“The participation of global leaders in combating poverty. The cases that inspired partnership work in a joint effort to build a better future for generations.”
— a participant on what was best about the Summit

In the lead up to the Summit, the Campaign led 6 policy makers from Ghana, Mozambique, and Malawi on a 12 day intensive field visit to sites in Ethiopia and Mexico for a deep dive into successful strategies for implementing social protection and livelihood development programs. The policy makers developed innovation plans for implementing throughout 2015 the lessons learned from their trip on returning home.

Throughout the Summit, more than 160 presenters participated in 7 plenaries, 35 workshops, and 6 full-day trainings; the materials, including videos and presentations, can be viewed online. Together, we built a vision for the next generation of financial services that reach everyone and that provide even the poorest and most remote with the tools and resources they need to complete the journey to sustainable livelihoods.

To get an overview of the 17th Microcredit Summit and key topic areas discussed, you can read our article in the forthcoming winter edition of the Journal for Social Business to learn more about the financial and social services that are building pathways out of poverty.


In June, we launched Resilience: State of the Microcredit Summit Campaign Report, 2014. The report emphasizes the key role that actors in the financial ecosystem can play in helping end extreme poverty by promoting the frameworks, systems, partnerships and strategies that deliver the types of products and services that help build resilience.

In July, we published Integrated Health and Microfinance in India, Volume II with Freedom from Hunger and the Indian Institute of Public Health-Gandhinagar. It highlights the policy measures in the Indian microfinance sector since 2011, documents best practices towards integrating health and microfinance, and proposes an agenda for moving forward to expand access to healthcare.

We also launched a joint project in July called “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: Partnering to improve maternal health in the Philippines” with Freedom from Hunger and CARD, the largest MFI in the Philippines. Together, we aim to improve health knowledge and promote behavior change for more than 600,000 women by December 2015 and strengthen “MFIs for Health,” a collaboration of health and microfinance practitioners in the Philippines.

Pregnant woman attending the first community health fair of “Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies” program in the Philippines

Join us for a fantastic 2015!

Looking Back at 2014, the Year of Resilience

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>>By Larry Reed, Director, Microcredit Summit Campaign

Larry visits a CARD group in Tacloban

Larry visits a CARD group in Tacloban whose members are rebuilding with the help of CARD’s quick and appropriate response to the Typhoon Yolanda disaster.

I started 2014 in Tacloban, Philippines, where one of the worst storms of this century, Typhoon Yolanda (or Haiyan outside the Philippines), made landfall. I visited Tacloban 75 days after the Typhoon hit to see how the storm affected the lives of microfinance clients, and what role financial services could play in helping them get back on their feet.

In the Central Business District only a few shops had dared to reopen. The dangling power lines and intermittent electricity made regular operations a challenge.

When I traveled to the parts of town where people lived in poverty, I found something much worse. Yolanda struck these low lying areas the hardest, hit them first with her 100 mph winds and then with the storm surge that followed in her wake, uprooting everything that was not permanently attached to the ground and then carrying it out to sea as the waters receded.

Homes and everything in them had been taken away, so people rebuilt with scrap lumber and sheets of plastic. They established homes and businesses again, selling daily necessities from the side of their rebuilt houses.

A mix of charity and financial services played a key role in helping people get back on their feet. Aid organizations employed people to help clean their neighborhoods and the rest of the city, giving them daily cash wages.

Microfinance institutions like CARD and ASKI got back into the city as soon as they could, providing rice and medicines for their clients’ immediate needs, while also paying insurance claims, providing access to savings and issuing emergency rebuilding loans long before any commercial banks restarted operations.

I came away with great admiration for the strength and resilience developed by those that live with constant vulnerability and an appreciation that the role that fast and appropriate financial services, delivered with a human touch, can have in catalyzing that energy to rapidly rebuild destroyed neighborhoods.

In August of this year, I visited another great example of resilience, this one over a decade in the making. Several government ministries in Ethiopia banded together under the leadership of the Prime Minister to design a program that would build resiliency in the land and the people that regularly suffered from drought. International aid organizations united behind this plan that now covers over 5 million people.

With support from the MasterCard Foundation, the Campaign hosted a trip for government ministers and leaders of government anti-poverty programs from Ghana, Mozambique, and Malawi to visit this Productive Safety Net Program (PNSP) in Ethiopia.

Participants of the Innovations in Social Protection project

Participants of the Innovations in Social Protection project on a field visit in Ethiopia.

Under the PNSP, people living in poverty who are not able to work (the elderly, the disabled, and mothers with young children) receive regular cash payments in exchange for maintaining regular health checkups and keeping their children in school.

Those who can work participate in local public works programs decided on by the leadership of each village. These projects can include expanding school facilities and building health clinics; although, most of them involve work that improves the productive capacity of the land.

With technical support from NGOs with highly trained professional on staff, the villagers work together to build dams, retention ponds, irrigation channels and hillside terraces. They receive the payment for their work in accounts set up in local banks or microfinance institutions, which also provide loans to help them expand businesses that profit from the land’s increase productivity.

Those who started the program with the greatest poverty participate in an ultra-poor graduation programs that provides them with an asset transfer, a savings account, business training, mentoring, and access to credit.

We visited at the end of the rainy season, and we could easily see the transformation that the PNSP had brought to the land and its people. We looked down a valley filled with tall green plants, with every hillside terraced and water flowing into dams and ponds that would provide irrigation after the rains stopped. Land that used to struggle to provide one crop now provided two or three crops a year.

Almost a quarter of the people who had started with this public assistance program now no longer needed it. I tried to imagine what it must feel like for the men and women working together on the hillside, digging a retention pond together, to look down the hill and see every part of the valley filled with green plants that would provide food for their animals and income for their livelihoods and to know that, not only were they and their children better off, but their entire community was better off because of the work they had done.

In September, we helped to assemble almost 900 people from 60 different countries in Merida, Mexico, for the 17th Microcredit Summit. As we gathered in the land of the ancient Maya who envisaged a new world coming into being at this time, we imagined a world where all people have access to financial products and services they need to protect against vulnerability and invest in opportunity.

Opening Ceremony - Prof Yunus_453x604

“Poor people didn’t create poverty. It’s the system that created the poverty. And, if we want to end poverty, we have to change the system.”

Muhammad Yunus issued the challenge for the Summit in his opening talk. “Poor people didn’t create poverty. It’s the system that created the poverty,” he told us. “And, if we want to end poverty, we have to change the system.”

During our 5 plenary sessions and 40 workshops, we heard from innovative thinkers and doers who are working to change the system. We discussed ideas and formed partnerships to begin or expand innovative programs that link conditional cash transfers to savings groups; extend agricultural value chains to small scale producers; provide health education, financing, and services in group meetings of microfinance clients; and employ digital technology that delivers payments and other financial services at a fraction of the cost of moving cash.

Together we made Commitments for what we would do to help extend financial services to all and help speed the end of extreme poverty. Then we closed by celebrating the real heroes of this work: the men and women who employ these services in order to earn and save enough to provide for their families and build a better future for their children.

I just completed my last trip of the year to the Inclusive Finance India Summit and saw a different type of resilience on display. Microfinance institutions in India have been devastated by the Andhra Pradesh crisis, where rapid growth in lending led to over-borrowing, client defaults, and a harsh response from the state government that halted collection efforts.

The sector is now growing rapidly again, enough that a few observers are worried that there may be some areas of overheating in the state of Karnataka, where many MFIs have moved.

Almost all the delegates I spoke with expressed excitement about new regulations announced by the Reserve Bank of India, which create a category of Small Finance Bank that can take deposits and make loans. The regulations also create a new category of Payments Bank to allow for institutions that make money from payment transaction, rather than from intermediating savings and credit.

A local community health volunteer trained and supervised by Bandhan, an Indian MFI, meets with members of a local self-help group and their families. (Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson)

A local community health volunteer trained and supervised by Bandhan, an Indian MFI, meets with members of a local self-help group and their families. (Photo courtesy of Johnson & Johnson)

In a dinner session I had with leaders from MFIs, I heard a lot of discussion about how they might transform their operations under these new regulations to provide a broader ranges of services to their clients. It will be interesting to watch this period of creative destruction that will take place in India as MFIs, mobile phone operators, and banks all adapt to the new regulations. I was glad to hear in our dinner the creativity and passion of many leaders to use these new opportunities to expand the services they provide to those living in poverty.

And now, as the year comes to a close, so does news of another Super Typhoon hitting the Philippines. This time, people knew about the power of storm surges and moved to higher ground before the storm struck, resulting in a much lower loss of life.

But still, thousands of people will go back to where they lived and find their houses and businesses destroyed. The fortunate ones will find an officer of a microfinance institution waiting for them, asking them what they need to get back on their feet.

On behalf of everyone at the Microcredit Summit Campaign, thank you for taking an active role in this global movement to bring appropriate financial services to those who struggle against poverty and vulnerability. It is our great honor and privilege to be working with you as we join with others to help bring an end to extreme poverty in our towns, our countries and our world.

May you be filled this holiday season with joy as you share the love of your family and reflect on the new financial system that we are creating together.

Sincerely,

Larry Reed

Op-ed Published on Devex: Microfinance is the key for the Philippines to meet MDG 5

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An op-ed by the heads of Freedom from Hunger, the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and CARD MRI. Continue reading

Microfinance communities working together to improve maternal health

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1700+ women attended a two-day community health fair in the Philippines got a checkup, learned about pre- and post-natal care, and more! EspañolFrançais Continue reading

Improving Maternal Health in the Philippines Through Microfinance

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Collaborating on a cross-sectoral program to help achieve MDG 5 in the Philippines EspañolFrançais Continue reading