Interviewing Auxi Reula Arasanz, AMREF Spain.

AMREF Flying Doctors motto-logo

For this interview on the sub-Saharan topic, I focus my attention in one of the main aspects of relation between western countries and Africa: the cooperation. At this point in our blog on this thrilling region we saw most of issues related with conflicts, civil wars, health diseases, natural disaster and so all. But not all is bad news, and no whole Africa is a country.

Is actually one of the most developing areas of the world, and where we can see many progress in the democratic institutionalization of some countries. It’s true that some colonizing links still existing and these connections are, in some cases, holding up the correct evolution of a society which is demand for this progress.

In a more Eurocentric vision of the Sub-Saharan issue, the questions are about what we can do, and how we can help for the long awaited African progress, without a neocolonial attitude and without interfering on the natural evolutionary process of societies. There is two main ways: the institutional way in which the European governments should help in the building of a correct and democratic politic society (democratic institutionalism) and the other way is the one in which the NGO’s must work for the health, and the social issues, that will contribute in the composition of a strong social tissue; building with that a social society, which is essential in a truly and freedom democracy. These two concepts are in the Gramsci idea of the “superstructure” of any government, for our (their) purpose: democratic states.

Eduardo and Auxi at the AMREF office in Madrid.

With Mrs. Auxi Reula at the AMREF office in Madrid.

For this purpose, I had the chance to interview Mrs. Auxi Reula, current Project Manger of AMREF Flying Doctors Spain, and AMREF Spain is associated with AMREF international. As she explained, the organization has here a different juridical situation, but with the same objectives and principles. 

Obviously, my first question was about the organization, the work they do, and what kind of projects they are implementing. She told me that the African Medical and Research Foundation, Flying Doctors, was created in 1957 by three surgeons: Sir Archibald McIndoe, Sir Michael Wood and Tom Rees. These doctors start doing their work in East Africa driving a plane over this region, trying to reach the remotest corners. This project is now the most important African NGO, in which the 93% of the people working are from Africa. And to do a better work, AMREF international (headquartered in Nairobi –Kenya-) has created an international network of the organization to optimize and improve their work. In Spain, AMREF flying doctors establish three main acting points:

  1. Fundraising and membership recruitment (in Spain).
  2. Networking with civil society (mainly medical staff) and governments (in Africa).
  3. Advocacy of medical interests (a kind of lobbying for the medical interests of African states).

And they base their work and projects following six lines of preferential action:

Main actuation countries of AMREF Spain (Red)

  • AIDS, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Malaria.
  • Family health,child health, women’s health.
  • Waterand purification systems.
  • Training local health workers and editing medical manuals.
  • Medical services and training to remote rural populations through the Flying Doctors 

With this, and to be more effective, they scoop their projects in seven countries:

  • South-Africa (to focus on Austral Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Senegal (west-africa)
  • Ethiopia
  • Uganda
  • Tanzania
  • Kenya (headquarter)

At this point my impression of this organization was very positive. Their work is objective and pragmatic, and focuses on structural problems, and not only in the juncture of single or critical situation. By creating a solid relationship between the local governments and training the native population in medical matters, they contribute tobuilda stable network of medical care. As the saying goes: Teach them to fish, and you will not have to give them fish every day”.

In the second part of the interview she told me about the work of AMREF Spain, and the projects carried. In their work, it’s very important the fundraising and the communication with the local administrations. It’s mainly technical and administrative work which will materialize in concrete actions in the place. AMREF Spain is so an organization serving AMREF international and have to respond the needs and acting plans required from the headquarters in Africa. They are also getting more involved in digital communication as an inexpensive way to publicize their activities, in places where they are not yet known, as in Spain. An example of that, is the  Twitter account they started for Spain, in the last November:

But the main part of their work in Spain is the fundraising, and in terms of this, the most interesting data is the proportion of donations between the public and the private, which is now in 75% and 25%, respectively. As she could tell me, the situation of the public administrations in Spain is very bad at these moments (because the “crisis”), when they have always been the major donors of the AMREF programs. The current situation has significantly increased the percentage of private contributions, but without falling into the trap: the corporate solidarity of Spanish companies still not rooted as social action (in contrast to countries like USA, where is widespread).

We ended the interview talking about the major project being carry out by AMREF, and in which is also working AMREF Spain. The project is calling “Stand Up For African Mothers”. As starts the song: “in sub-Saharan Africa, 1/39 mothers are at risk of dying during pregnancy and child-birth. No woman should die giving life…” The message seems clear; the situation of mothers is very vulnerable before infections or illness occurring in the pregnancy, and many of them end up dying. In one of the main AMREF actuation countries, South Sudan, the rate is 2,054 deaths per 100,000 live births (assuming that the fertility rate is 4.6 children per woman, results that nearly 10% die because of pregnancy).  That’s an unaffordable statistic, not only for the excessive human loss; but also for the social damage. As Mrs. Auxi points, apart from the human lives, the social value of the women in the African communities is enormous; both for the development, and for a family care lacking the minimum government social assistance. Therefore, this campaign aims to combat the problem; launching mechanisms for the training of midwives and medical staff to help in pregnancies. In this way, the most symbolic initiative of this campaign was to purpose the figure of the midwife (“accoucheuse”), for the Peace Nobel Prize.

We thought, along with Mrs. Auxi, that the best way to end this interview was providing a donation pathway for this campaign (Stand Up For African Mothers); and therefore anyone could participate, which in my opinion, is one of the best NGOs in Africa (if not the best, for all that was mentioned above).

Colabora con AMREF

Supports AMREF

Eduardo García Canal, UEM.


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