4 countries in West Africa set out to implement project on Strengthening Research for Health Systems

Categories:Director's Corner

Four West African countries – Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone, have officially joined the ‘Strengthening Research for Health System Development in West Africa’ project. This project is a four-year effort financed by the International Development Research Centre – Canada (IDRC), and the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), with technical facilitation provided by COHREDi.

The project was launched at a workshop organised in Dakar, Senegal, in March 2011ii. The workshop was aimed at designing action plans tailored for each of the 4 countries. In addition, there was also focus on identifying shared problems that could be tackled through collective strategies. The country action plans – which are highlighted in box 1 – are to be implemented during the four-year project timeline on ‘Strengthening Research for Health System Development in West Africa’.

This project draws on the ‘WAHO research for health meeting’ jointly organised by WAHO, the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED) and IDRC in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in December 2009. During this meeting, an assessment of the research for health (R4H) situation in 14 West African countries was carried out. The findings from the assessment highlighted the important regional research for health systems deficiencies, on issues concerning:

  • governance and management structures,

  • policy frameworks,

  • the utilisation of research results,

  • research capacity development,

  • the push for political support to research for health, and the

  • the push for financial resources for research,

and identified Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone as being the countries in most need of support for strengthening research for health systems developmentiii.

Box 1: Countries Plans of Action

Guinea Bissau

– R4H system mapping of the broad issues for creating the basis for good governance such as law and regulation, priority setting, ethics committee building, advocacy for sustainable funds.

– Capacity building process, including financial management and accountability, communication, networking and monitoring the use of research results.


– Promote a culture of use of research findings among policy and decision makers.

– Mobilise funding for health research.

– Set up a national ethics committee.

– Establish a national agenda for governance.

– R4H system mapping, priority setting and development of a research information management system to be supported through Health Research Web.


– Foundation of a health research coordination committee.

– Improvement of ethical committees.

– Funds mobilisation strengthening.

– Achieving a better dissemination and use of research findings.

– Training of human resources.

– Infrastructure building or renovating.

– Development of computer-based systems and networking.

– Advocacy to dedicate 2% of the national health budget and 5% of donor funds for health programmes to research.

Sierra Leone

– Develop a health research policy and plan.

– Strengthen ethics review and human resources for R4H.

– Mobilise financial resources for R4H.

Each priority is then translated into organising, training, and capacity building, advocacy and communications activities.


It is clear that there is a great need and a great interest in building national research and innovation capacity – even in very low income countries and even in very small nations.

The essential motivations are always the same:

  1. Increasing the ability of countries to take charge of their own research and innovation agenda;

  2. addressing specific problems that are not attractive to foreign donors;

  3. and realise the wider health, equity and development potentials of strong research and innovation systems, and a culture of evidence-based policy making.

In a future ‘beyond aid’, research and innovation will need to feature high on national agendas. This project helps countries to get there.

All the best!

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Gabriela Montorzi


i Financial support for the workshop was provided by UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Program for Research and Training and Tropical Disease.

ii Dakar workshop report on Research for Health System Strengthening can be downloaded through the following link:


iii A complementary study financially supported by the Health Research Capacity Strengthening Global Learning Project of IDRC, through the University of the Western Cape, examined the R4H system current status in the four West African countries participating in the project, i.e. Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali and Sierra Leone. In particular, the study reviewed governance and management structures, research for health policies and research for health priorities. Country findings from the meeting held in Ouagadougou in December 2009 were compared to those from the four above-mentioned countries. Cross-country comparisons were made, highlighting similarities and differences in country needs and challenges with respect to R4HS development. The study report can be downloaded through the following link: http://www.cohred.org/publications/library-and-archive/governance-priorities-policies-in-national-research-for-health-systems-in-west-africa/


Leave a Reply