Introducing RAME, Burkina Faso: 2013 ONE Africa Award finalist

The ONE Africa Award is an annual $100,000 USD prize which celebrates the innovations and progress being made by African civil society towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  We are excited to announce our six finalists for 2013, and this blog series looks at the remarkable work of each organisation.

Réseau Accès aux Médicaments Essentiels (Network for Accessing Essential Medicines or RAME) is based in Burkina Faso, and their mission is to influence government policies to ensure equal access to health.

In 2001 as the death toll from AIDS seemed to climb inexorably upward, a group of activists came together at a global level to fight for access to generic ARVs. A committed core of Burkinabe citizens were involved in this effort and successfully fought for the importation of generic medicines into Burkina Faso despite it being a signatory to the Bangui Accord, an international convention signed by a number of francophone African states to protect intellectual property.

Those activists didn’t stop there though. Once Burkina Faso gained access to these life-saving medicines—which dropped the average price of ARVs from 300,000 CFA ($620 today) a month to 42,000 CFA ($86 today)—they had to be made available to the very people and populations that needed them. So this same group successfully advocated for the Burkinabe government to provide free ARVs to all its citizens, which came into force in 2009.

While Burkina Faso now has a policy to offer free ARVs (at least in principle), there are still many challenges for its citizens to access quality healthcare. Physical and geographical access is a major concern, but even when there are facilities, health workers are not always available.

To address these challenges and more, RAME has developed a broad-based member network that covers all of Burkina Faso’s regions. With these members, it has established a program called “l’Observatoire”—better understood in English as “Watchdog”—to which all of these partners contribute data and anecdotes on the functioning of public health facilities in their areas.

l’Observatoire issues public alerts regarding drug shortages, absent healthcare workers and other issues—to which the government will respond and then rectify. Working with local community groups expands RAME’s reach and fuels its advocacy.

RAME doesn’t shy away from confronting government leaders and ministries to do their jobs and keep their commitments. In 2008, it ran an initiative alongside Burkina Faso’s presidential elections to compare the candidates’ records and stated policy positions regarding health matters. After publicising these positions at a national press conference, 100 billion CFA (just over $2 million) was announced and committed. RAME is now tracking to see whether that commitment has been kept.

The winner of the 2013 ONE Africa Award will be announced on 8th November in Addis Ababa. Be the first to know who takes the prize by following @ONEinAfrica on Twitter.


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