Millions of people lack access to adequate basic health services. In many developing countries the situation is worsened by the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
Without health services, people cannot live in dignity; their life chances are limited and their agency to control their futures and to lift themselves out of poverty is reduced.
What we do
Our vision is that everyone has access to healthcare. VSO works in more than 20 countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific to try to break the vicious circle of ill health, poverty and social exclusion in the developing world. We support disadvantaged people to fulfil their right to enjoy physical, mental and social health and wellbeing. We also work to offer good-quality essential health and HIV and AIDS services.
In the past financial year, VSO:
- worked with 141 local partners to improve health outcomes in 18 countries
- developed health services that benefitted 867,000 people (60% women)
- provided high-quality training to 23,800 health, HIV and AIDs practitioners
We work with government and non-governmental partners, as well as through national and international advocacy to:
1. Strengthen the capabilities of frontline health professionals
Our international volunteers provide in-service, on-the-job skills training and resources for health workers.
VSO also supports the critical contribution made by unpaid community-based health volunteers and home-based caregivers in many developing countries. We provide the information, training and skills they need to enable them to deliver essential community-based health and HIV and AIDS services.
2. Improve management and delivery of health and HIV and AIDS services
Our volunteers support the delivery of maternal, sexual and reproductive, child, HIV and AIDS and health services at primary healthcare level. This includes frontline treatment, care and support. We work with partners to improve the quality and quantity of pre-service training offered to new health professionals in countries where there is an acute shortage in the health workforce.
VSOs newborn care programmes in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda have had a significant impact on improving health outcomes for newborns. Given the success of these we are proud to present ‘Best Practice in Newborn Health Care’, which highlights the latest newborn health research and best newborn care health practices.
3. Increase community engagement
We empower volunteer health groups; they are often in the best position to represent the voice of the communities they serve. They can highlight the inadequacies in health or HIV and AIDS service delivery and hold those responsible for providing health services to account.
We build the capacity of these groups to become more involved in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of local health services. This will help them to be more effective in representing the interests of poor communities at all levels of the health system.
4. Lobby for pro-poor health and HIV and AIDs policies
We want to improve legislative systems through the introduction of policies that enable disadvantaged children, women and men to secure their rights to health services and challenge practices which discriminate against them.
VSO staff, volunteers and partners are lobbying for better conditions for healthworkers, the shortage of whom in the workforce in many developing countries leads to thousands of unnecessary and unacceptable deaths.
We also call for positive action on HIV and AIDS that recognises the pandemic as a gender issue and the role of informal volunteer caregivers in mitigating the impact of the disease. We are also calling for improved HIV testing and treatment in prisons.
For more information and case studies on how VSO contributes to improving health outcomes for people living in poverty, see our Health, HIV and AIDS capability statement (PDF).
Volunteer with VSO
If you're an experienced health professional, why not lend your skills and volunteer with VSO?