Project Goals for 2023-2026: New country collaborations, African fellowships and more

Countdown to 2030 will expand the number of country collaborations, launch three multi-country analysis projects, and mentor African researchers within the Countdown network through a new fellowship program, as it enters a new funding phase for 2023-2026. The Countdown collaboration will continue its global monitoring, measurement and accountability work, such as contributing to global measurement initiatives related to the Sustainable Development Goals, advancing analysis and evidence through the data & analysis centers (DACs) and gathering evidence of country-level impact through the ongoing data uptake series.

Cheikh Faye from the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) has succeeded Ties Boerma from the University of Manitoba as the project director. Dr. Faye was formerly in charge of Africa operations for Countdown. APHRC is now the main recipient of Countdown funds and leads the collaborations with public health institutions and ministries of health in 22 African countries. Dr. Boerma remains engaged in project leadership and the work of the DACs and country collaborations.

The Countdown collaborations are expanding from 15 to 25 countries, all countries with Global Financing Facility (GFF) investment cases; the tentative list of newly added countries includes Bangladesh, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, India, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe. The final list will be confirmed in the coming months. The collaboration with GFF is strengthened globally with the appointment of a secondment, Jennifer Requejo-Harris, who is re-joining the Countdown after four years at UNICEF. GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, has also indicated that it is keen to support for the country collaborations, allowing for more work in the field of immunization.

Three multi-country projects will focus on maternal and newborn health, family planning, and immunization. Similar to the previous multi-country project focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and maternal and child health among the urban poor in sub-Saharan Africa, for the new projects Countdown researchers will collaborate remotely and through in-person workshops to analyze all relevant data to produce the best estimates of coverage and equity for their countries, especially at the subnational level. This should lead to inputs into the country reviews of national plans and GFF investment cases, country-specific communications products, country-led inputs into global estimation processes and joint research products.

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The fellowship program will select 10 African researchers per year to receive additional mentoring and coaching to strengthen their analytical capacities related to reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition. Fellows will be selected from within the Countdown country collaborations through a competitive process.

The Countdown global and regional analytical work foundation will continue to be concentrated in its six DACs, focusing on equity, routine health information system data analysis, effective coverage, health financing, geospatial analysis, and health policy and systems.