Ten ways DFC is advancing global health
By Nafisa Jiwani
Two years ago, U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) launched a robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in multiple projects to expand access to lifesaving medical equipment, services, and vaccines, while also committing to a longer-term focus on global health systems resilience and pandemic preparedness. While COVID required an immediate response, it also exposed weaknesses in health systems that left the world vulnerable to future challenges.
This week, DFC announced that its two-year-old Global Health and Prosperity Initiative has supported $2 billion in investment across 25 projects — a major accomplishment that signals the agency’s strong commitment to the health sector. Across a diverse portfolio of investments, DFC is helping the world respond to COVID, prepare for the next pandemic, improve health systems, and increase access to healthcare in the most vulnerable communities. These investments and our ongoing focus on the health sector will help create a more healthy and prosperous world.
1. Expanding vaccine manufacturing capacity In response to a significant shortage in global vaccine production capacity, DFC has provided financing to India’s Biological E Limited and other manufacturers in Africa, where supply is most limited. Just the investment in Biological E will expand production capacity by more than one billion doses by the end of the year.
2. Supporting vaccine distribution worldwide DFC has supported the Gavi Vaccine Alliance-led COVAX facility with both financing and political risk insurance to help the facility procure COVID vaccines directly from manufacturers and allocate them around the world. At a time when vaccination rates remain low across much of the developing world and new variants continue to emerge, DFC’s support will help COVAX secure extra doses and expand availability globally.
3. Bolstering chronic disease care In Sub-Saharan Africa, where an estimated one million people suffer from chronic kidney disease requiring dialysis, a DFC loan is supporting the expansion of Africa Healthcare Network, which provides affordable, quality dialysis and will use the financing to expand care in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
4. Investing in women’s health In Ecuador, DFC is helping one hospital meet a surge in demand for prenatal and pediatric care. Financing will help Axxis Hospital in Quito add a maternity ward, a pediatric intensive care unit, a neonatology unit, along with eight delivery rooms and an emergency room for obstetrics and pediatric surgery.
5. Advancing health innovation India’s Portea Medical is expanding access to quality home healthcare using technology to lower costs and reach more patients. Throughout the pandemic, Portea’s support helped many COVID patients receive care at home and avoid hospital visits. DFC financing will help Portea expand its operations and increase the reach of its home healthcare services.
6. Supporting small healthcare providers Small and medium health clinics provide a critical source of care in Africa but often operate outside of the formal economy and struggle to access financing to buy essential diagnostic equipment, modernize their facilities or expand to reach more patients. DFC financing helped the Medical Credit Fund provide working capital loans to clinics in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda so that they could remain open during the pandemic, and provide critical care for COVID, malaria, and other essential health services to more than five million Africans.
7. Mobilizing growth capital in healthcare companies Since its monarchy was replaced with a democratic republic in 2008, Nepal has struggled to attract foreign investment to modernize key industries. A DFC equity investment in Dolma Impact Fund II will support investments in healthcare, and other sectors.
8. Strengthening supply chains A DFC equity investment is helping Kasha Global Inc. expand its e-commerce business selling personal care products to women in Kenya and Rwanda, where unreliable supply chains make it difficult to access basic medicines such as malaria preventatives and health and hygiene products.
9. Investing in nutrition Stunting resulting from poor nutrition is common in much of the developing world. In Zambia, DFC political risk insurance is supporting DAI Global in a USAID-funded initiative with the government of Zambia to reduce stunting by expanding access to nutrition, as well as water, sanitation, and hygiene. The program trains farmers to establish community gardens and improve production of vegetables and legumes.
10. Expanding access to clean water An estimated one in four people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water in their homes, a shortage that is a major cause of illness. DFC financing is helping the nonprofit impact investor WaterEquity support microfinance lending in water and sanitation in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. WaterEquity has helped nearly three million people across nine developing countries access safe water or sanitation in their homes by installing connections to piped water, toilets, or septic tanks.
Nafisa Jiwani is Managing Director for Health Initiatives at DFC.