This project underscores the importance of Strategic Partnerships: visit to Nelson Mandela Children Hospital

14 February 2018
L-R: UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA ESARO Regional Director, Dr. Julita Onabanjo, and UN Secreatry-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake at the NMCH. 14 February 2018. Photo Credit: Sarah Kenyi

As part of her final duties in line with the First Multi-Country African Mission, the UN Secreatry-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake visited the Nelson Mandela Children Hospital (NMCH) in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Youth Envoy was joining Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director in touring the hospital, alongside UNFPA East and Southern Africa Regional Office (UNFPA ESARO) Director, Dr. Julita Onabanjo.

The Nelson Mandela Children Hospital, a state-of-the-art health facility, is a specialised children hospital, which offers free care to patients within South Africa as well as those coming from outside the country. It combines a child and family-friendly environment with ultra-modern MRI and CT-Scan facilities, and offer complex medical solutions like interventional radiology. It has an intensive care unit (ICU) where up to 24 new born in their most critical state can be treated at the same time.

Prior to its construction, only one specialised hospital of its kind existed in South Africa, which was located in Cape Town. The project, which was initiated by the Nelson Mandela Children Fund, was to supplement this need and close the gap in children care. The hospital is one of only five (5) specialised state-of-the-art children hospitals in Africa today.

UN Secreatry-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake on a guided tour of the Nelson Mandela Children Hospital, 14 February 2018. Photo Credit: Sarah Kenyi

The UNFPA Executive Director noted that the success of the project showed the power of a dream, having only last seen it when it was in its construction phase, and knowing when ELMA Philanthropies funded its pre-feasibility study. Bongi Mkhabela, the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital Trust, noted that it was a project that grew both from the power of imagination, and commitment of many partners and professionals who were willing to pay the Madiba Price: time and cost. “If the world was equal and we were to build a health facility for our children, what would it look like?” she asked, noting that this question was at the heart of why the facility had to be built. The UNFPA Regional Director mentioned during the tour that the NMCH brought to light the quality of care that has always been dreamt of in Africa.

The hospital was exclusively built on donor funding, but now able to partner with three medical schools in the Gauteng Province, and is able to train fellows to gain experience in the teaching hospital and augment the professionals who are resident at the NMCH. The hospital also attracted top professionals who volunteered their time whenever there was need for them to assist in the hospital.

The UN Youth Envoy, who gave a concluding remark during the tour, noted that the NMCH was a great example of the fact that “quality can also be free,” and that the success of the project provided an important lesson on how to build partnerships, and mobilise the private sector and various stakeholders to realise a dream and invest in health for the future generation.