Welcome to Shifo!
I would like to give you some background as to why Shifo was started and what we are working for.
The inspiration to create an organisation that could improve people’s lives through transparent donations dates back to 1992, when I was 12 years old. There was a civil war in my country Tajikistan. It was tough times! Humanitarian aid was delivered to supply food and necessities but it was inefficient. Most of the food supply ended up in the markets for sale by the same officers who were responsible for distributing it among the population. I wondered if there was a better way to introduce checks and balances and trace donations so that it would create its intended impact in humanitarian aid and development cooperation?
Time passed and I was fortunate as my family’s situation improved. I finished high school, received my Bachelor Degree in Engineering and I even got accepted to continue my studies at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. During my first years in Sweden I was privileged to work within delivering and improving health service delivery by utilising efficient medical technology. In 2005 I started working as a Biomedical Engineer where I worked with very exciting projects to develop technology for distance health service delivery.
During one of my visits to Tajikistan, I met many people from the community where I was brought up. They were happy to learn of my progress and life in Sweden, but they were also amazed and upset to learn that there were places where people do not suffer from lack of access to proper health services and corrupted hospitals. In Sweden, universal access to healthcare services is taken for granted –the life of every mother and every child is protected and valued. The things I experienced gave me the push to start acting and that is when I started developing my idea to improve healthcare services in underserved communities around the world. I thought that no child should die from vaccine preventable diseases and every woman should be protected from life-threatening complications during their pregnancies. Thankfully I got the support of my managers at Karolinska University Hospital, as well as funding for my first projects from the Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions, Spider, a national centre financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida.
By 2008, the our project team had managed to improve healthcare service delivery in a hard-to-reach rural area of Tajikistan by connecting rural health units to better equipped city hospitals. Through the implemented telemedicine solution difficult cases could be virtually referred for specialist diagnoses. Later that year we started the development of our most ambitious project ever, ICT4MPOWER.
Together with the Ministry of Health and with the support of Spider and the Uganda Communications Commission, we set off to develop a National Health Information Management System, which could strengthen work processes, reduce administration and help monitoring and improving quality of health service delivery in low-resource settings. In March 2012, we were ready for our first implementation at a Health Centre in the Mukono District of Uganda. Users and management at the Mukono Health Centre have been instrumental for the agile development of the system. During the month in Uganda we customised the system according to new requirements of the end-users. We continue to work in close collaboration with the Management and staff at Mukono to further develop the system and new applications to support their work and improve service delivery to people.
During the past 10 years I have been fortunate enough to work with inspiring people. We have grown a large network of people interested in working for the same cause. Some of these people have become members of our core team. We inspire each other to seek new routes to achieve our ambitions mission. We believe that the right technology can support work processes to make health service delivery more effective and help management gain control over scarce resources. Correctly implemented these systems improve transparency, checks and balances and the provision of useful quality data on which coordinated strategic planning and new interventions can be created. What is more, once implemented our systems provide reliable baseline data and thereafter statistics, which we can use to truly measure the real impact of all interventions in the healthcare service delivery in a district!
The question was of course, how to secure funds for strategic long-term improvement of health sector development when most organisations are looking for short-term measurable impacts? One day as I took my 6-year old son to the doctor we talked about my work and I told him how lucky he is to be born in a place where there is general access to proper healthcare and how millions of children die each year simply by lack of access to basic essential health services. He looked sad and said: “I want to help you solve this problem and make the other children not die”. This have stayed with me and reminds me that there are many people in this world, young and old alike, who want to help solve this problem. Together with friends, family and colleagues, the idea of Shifo developed further.
In June 2013, on 6th June which is the National Day in Sweden, Shifo was launched. With Shifo we want to develop a community committed to our mission of reducing mortality and improve child and maternal health worldwide by equipping healthcare providers and developing valuable, accessible and affordable healthcare services at the point of need.
I cannot wait to see our community grow and what we can achieve together.
PS: To my family, friends, colleagues, and of course especially my son and daughter –you are my source of inspiration!