Tuesday, July 19, 2005

ICROSS: Helping Others To Choose Their Own Futures

ICROSS is another one of those NGOs whose name I cannot decipher until I read its web site and learned that "ICROSS" is an acronym for "International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering."

But just because I did not know what "ICROSS" meant, I knew what ICROSS means to a lot of people in Africa suffering from adequate water resources or health services. Not only does this organization do a great job in addressing serious problems in Africa, they do it in a way that is logical and sensitive to the needs of the communities served.

Founded by Dr. Michael Elmore Meegan in 1978 this organization aims to provide long-term assistance to the nomadic communities of the sub-Saharan region. Acting as a catalyst all of ICROSS's projects are owned and run the communities they serve.

Using the culture of the communities being served ICROSS works to improve those communities' health and living standards. Working in this culturally sensitive manner they gain the trust of those communities and keep it. Having this type of trust of the communities being served helps to ensure the sustainability of its programs.

The core programs of ICROSS are HIV/AIDS prevention and care, community based health care, children's rights, poverty reduction and community strengthening. All of this is being done within a five-year strategic plan that was developed with the Ministry of Health in Kenya and also sets out long-term goals.

ICROSS also provides research outputs that inform policy, planning and practice at all levels, this is a key ingredient to evidence based policy development.

ICROSS describes itself as "a small international organisation working to fight poverty and disease in the poorest parts of the world." They have done this for over 25 years working with tribes in East Africa fighting disease.

Seeking to strengthen the capacity of poor marginalized communities to improve their own health and livelihoods through the rights based approaches of participation, inclusion and community empowerment processes, ICROSS works with the resources, capabilities and capacities available within those communities. ICROSS says that it "believes that the most effective vehicle for development work is the communities' own belief systems and traditions. People have the right to choose and the right to plan their own future, consequently, anthropological research is a key part of our work."

ICROSS also states on their web site that their values "include living as equals among those we work with and for, learning their languages and culture, inculcating a respect for diversity of beliefs and dedicating ourselves to long-term commitment to the poor, those who are socially excluded and those who are victims of social injustice."

If I may allow myself to editorialize here - this wins ICROSS a lot of credibility in my book.

By taking this approach ICROSS ensures that the communities are empowered to take full responsibility for the changes and developments that drive the development of ICROSS. This is done beginning with needs identification and continues through implementation, monitoring and evaluation. At every level of decision making impacting their lives, communities, families and individuals are involved.

ICROSS sets out the following as the list of things they do.

- They prevent diseases and control epidemics.

- They create long term changes in infant mortality.

- They are creating low cost-effective solutions to break the cycle of poverty

- They train, educate and support thousands of local people to be self-sufficient.

- They support communities in helping orphaned children and help them respond to poverty in the villages.

- They see what is working and find out what is effective through scientific study and research. Working with international institutions they have published widely on new innovative responses to disease and poverty.

- They identify the most vulnerable children and communities in need and provide practical immediate help and long-term solutions so (that those communities) will be independent

- They believe in evidence led public health programmes responding to the realities on the ground

ICROSS has successfully implemented home based care activities in Nakuru and Bondo Districts using funding from the Global Fund,. Now that funding has been extended, and ICROSS will open a new office and establish a home based programme in July in Kisii District.

Among other things, this program includes HIV/AIDS prevention strategies as well as care of terminally ill AIDS patients. The effort will also include the training of teachers on HIV and address stigma and discrimination.

ICROSS recently had two proposals accepted by the Global Fund to address Youth Pro-care and Malaria treatment and prevention strategies from 2006-2010 in Bondo, Nakuru and Kisii districts of Kenya.

In Samburu District of Kenya ICROSS has initiated a primary health project, the first stage of which is the mobilization of the communities and discussing the project; expectations and goals. The project is slated to run for overr two years and is funded by Development Corporation Ireland. It will be co-implemented with the Ministry of Health and Samburu district medical hospital.

In Lorngosua, Kenya the water source has been used by livestock, leaving the water highly contaminated, infecting the Maasai with various water borne diseases. With funding from Development Corporation Ireland, ICROSS has recently finished the protection of the Lorngosua water source. "Through fencing, livestock and wild animals will not be able to access this particular water source, ensuring the water is safer for human consumption."

Also, ICROSS has fully documented its vast experience in disease prevention and control amongst the disadvantaged communities that it serves. This information is assisting national and international organizations in determining the best practices in critical areas such as HIV/AIDS prevention, home-based care for those infected with HIV/AIDS and succession planning for orphans and vulnerable children.

There is a lot more to learn about ICROSS, and if you want to know more, their web site is located at:

They have a lot going on and are doing a lot of good.


Soji Akomolafe said...

Thanks for rendering such an invaluable public service on behalf of Africa. As an African myself, I am particularly elated to see that there are still people who care this much. With the help of folks like you, maybe we will finally get to where we need to be.

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Davida said...

A quick update- I recently returned from a visit to ICROSS in Kenya- I have posted some comments and pictures here:
and http://www.flickr.com/photos/davida3/sets/72157600179744803/
Mike meegan and his people continue to provide excellent support where it really makes a difference.