Since 2008, the University of Cape Town has trained 151 pediatricians, paediatric sub-specialists, and paediatric nurses from across Africa through the African Paediatric Fellowship Programme (APFP). The addition of the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UZKN) to the APFP training network will enable 150 more paediatric specialists to be trained in the next three years, doubling the number of doctors and nurses trained to date.
APFP is the preeminent education program dedicated to training African paediatric doctors and post- graduate nurses. Prof. Ashraf Coovadia, Dept. Head, Paediatrics & Child Health at Wits states, “There’s a critical shortage of child-health providers in Africa. Without an adequate number of trained experts, it’s difficult to make a significant difference in the way a country’s health care system can respond to the needs of infants and children.”
There is less than one paediatrician per 100,000 children in Africa, compared to an estimated 99 pediatricians per 100,000 children in the United States. With support from APFP, these numbers are significantly changing. There were four paediatricians in Malawi in 2009; eight years later, there are now 15 pediatricians including the country’s first Neonatologist, and 94 qualified specialist children’s nurses.
APFP works closely with Ministries of Health and 33 partner universities from 13 African countries, who select candidates for the program, pay their salaries while training and ensure there are positions available to them upon completion. APFP fellows are primarily returning to the public health system, where the need for child health professionals is the greatest. This collaboration has resulted in 98% of graduates remaining in their home country, leading the delivery of high-quality child health services, training and research.
APFP fellow Dr. Joyce Balagadde-Kambugu of Uganda’s Cancer Institute adds, “The African Paediatric Fellowship Programme changed my life and changed the outlook for childhood cancer in Uganda. The training I received through APFP equipped me with the knowledge and skills I needed to start the first dedicated paediatric oncology service in Uganda. Prior to my training there were no paediatric oncologists or a dedicated paediatric service. Today we see approximately 450 children per year.”
The African Paediatric Fellowship Programme relies on donor funding to cover tuition, professional fees and living expenses for the fellows during their training. Funders to date include The ELMA Foundation, Harry Crossley Foundation, Vitol Foundation and The Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust.