|Amici del Mondo World Friends Onlus|
|Headquarters||Via Charles Lenormant 211, 00119 Rome, Italy
Theta Lane - P.O. BOX 39433-00623, Nairobi, Kenya
|Staff||president Federico Gobbi
vice-president Valeria Ferracciolo
|Area served||Burkina Faso, Kenya, Italy, Senegal, Uganda|
|Focus||Health, education, housing, cooperation|
Amici del Mondo World Friends Onlus is an independent Italian non-profit association of social utility for international cooperation. Recognized by the Government of Kenya as an NGO it is awaiting analogous accreditation at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Established in 2001, the Association has its head offices in Rome and has volunteer-based regional offices in Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Lazio, Sicily. The Association’s African office is based in Nairobi.
The aim of World Friends is to contribute to the achievement of the principles established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in all parts of the world, giving priority to fundamental rights for health, housing and education. World Friends’ actions at present are focused on the African continent and their final goal is to improve health, social and educational conditions in the most disadvantaged populations. Every action taken responds to actual needs and to a specific request from the local communities, and is undertaken with their full collaboration.
For this reason, the World Friends’ operative centre has taken the decision to live and work in the city of Nairobi in Kenya so as to assimilate better into the social structure of the area and be able to act as spokesman for the local communities.
World Friends began from an initiative of Gianfranco Morino, a medical doctor with more than 20 years’ experience in Africa. After having collaborated for a number of years on projects with the Italian Cooperation for Development, in 1991 he took on responsibility with the Programme for Health Prevention and Education in the nomadic area of Sololo, North Kenya, collaborating with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Following work with the European Union in Somalia, in 1994 he began to work in health prevention and education in the shanty towns of Korogocho and Mathare in Nairobi. In 2002 he then took over the direction of the Department of Surgery at Mbagathi Hospital, still in the Kenyan capital, being the only European to work in a state-run hospital.
In 2001, together with a group of friends and collaborators, all convinced of the need for an association to be created in Africa itself, Morino established “World Friends - Amici del mondo". The central idea was that of an organization that could properly integrate with the reality of the local population, not being thousands of miles away, and able to carry out projects deriving from the concrete needs of these populations. To respond to that need, World Friends has over the years prioritized the use of local personnel, relying minimally on the services of expatriate personnel.
A great part of World Friends’ activities is concentrated in Kenya, with actions carried out in different environments: health, preventive medicine, youth education, professional training, support for women and the most vulnerable social sectors. Many projects are closely linked as they form part of a greater whole, beginning from the health of an individual right up to and including his educational and social status and inserted into the appropriate context.
An example of such an approach is the construction of the "Ruaraka Uhai Neema Hospital", a multi-functioning health centre opened by World Friends in November 2008, situated near to the shanty towns of Nairobi and dedicated not only to the treatment of the poorest sector of the population but also to the training of local medical personnel. This action will go on further to consolidate the work carried out by World Friends at the Mbagathi Hospital and at the surgeries located in the Nairobi shanty towns. In addition to health assistance, World Friends workers carry out action in the field of health prevention and education, above all to combat the spread of the HIV virus.
"Afema’s" activities are directed to introducing small income-raising activities (dressmaking, local crafts) solely to mothers of children in need of physiotherapy so as to provide economical maintenance for the family while at the same time providing the required treatments. There are also microcredit initiatives, mainly directed to single mothers or women abandoned by their husbands. World Friends also takes action in the schools of the shanty towns, supporting children who are less well-off and those with serious family problems.
Every year, by means of the "Doroty" project, the Association provides for a large number of health and social workers to attend training organized by the local institutions, aimed at improving their professional skills, and guaranteeing permanence and autonomy in all actions undertaken. This project fits in above all with the training work that World Friends carries out in order to call a halt to the so-called brain drain, a problem that is impoverishing Africa.
The Association is presently concentrating its plan of action on the achievement of the eight Millennium Goals, a UN plan for world development, to be achieved within the year 2015. Specifically among these goals, World Friends has decided to work towards the achievement of the fifth goal (Improve Maternal Health) and the sixth (Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases).
The main areas of World Friends’ actions include the shanty towns of the North-Eastern area of Nairobi (slums of Babadogo, Huruma, Kariobangi, Mathare Valley-Eastleigh, Kahawa, Soweto Korogocho) and the Kibera shanty towns in the South-West area of Kenya’s capital city.
These areas have a population of around 1,700,000 inhabitants, for the major part all living below the poverty threshold, with per capita income of 20 Euro per month. Unemployment stands at 80%; half the population is under the age of 15. The incidence of HIV is 15-20%, and Aids orphans number at least 100,000.
The beneficiaries of World Friends’ projects come from backgrounds marked by poverty, violence, criminality, prostitution, the precariousness of housing and work, pollution, diseases. The health problems found by the health workers of World Friends are innumerable: gastroenteritis and severe respiratory diseases, especially in children; a permanent status of malnutrition and the presence of typhoid fever and malaria. Tuberculosis is in evident recrudescence; the number of children with physical handicaps is high. The diagnosis of ailments requiring surgery and the incidence of cancer – the latter showing a clear increase – is often delayed due to the intrinsic inefficiencies of the health systems in African countries. The lack of specialist services for diagnosis and treatment accessible to the poor worsens the outcomes of traumas and burns, very frequent among children, often causing permanent disabilities in a context where physical integrity is linked to the survival of the individual. The transmission of sexual diseases is very widespread, AIDS in particular being a very real scourge.
Regarding trends for the rest of the city and for the country, access to reproductive health services in the Nairobi slums is minimal: only 15% of the health structures present provide basic obstetrical assistance and only 35% of the births are assisted by qualified personnel. Maternal mortality in the shanty towns (590 mothers per 100,000 births in 1998) is higher than in any other region in Kenya. The infant mortality rate under 5 years of age (1,565 deaths for every 1000 babies, equal to 15.6%) is higher than that of any other urban settlement in Kenya. Lastly, due to the fact that the incidence off AIDS is decreasing at the National level, in the Nairobi slums adolescents and women are still strongly vulnerable, with 37% of women between 20 and 24 years of age resulting positive to the infection.
World Friends participates in the network of 22 NGOs that constitute the "Osservatorio Italiano sull'Azione Globale contro l'AIDS" (Italian Observatory on Global Action to combat AIDS), an institution established to achieve the 6th Millennium Goal.
At the local level, World Friends belongs to numerous association networks, such as the "Comitato cittadino per la cooperazione decentrata della città di Roma" (Citizens Committee for decentralized cooperation, City of Rome), the "Piattaforma Mondialità Savona" (Savona World Platform), or the journal "Modena Cooperazione internazionale" (Modena International Cooperation), and is a member of their editing committee.
In addition to the realities involved in the projects at local level, both in Italy as well as in Africa, World Friends’ main partners are the following: