Together with our partners, in the last five years alone we have…
Transferred 22,838 women and children under five
using emergency transport schemes
Trained 151 driver trainers, who have in turn trained
Set up a knowledge centre with over 90 case studies
and 120 tools
The international development organisation is celebrating its 20th Birthday later this year as an independent charity and shares transport expertise with partners and governments in Africa to empower people to build the skills they need to transform their own lives. We were lucky enough to speak to Caroline Barber, Chief Executive, who let us know more about the work in which Transaid is currently carrying out, and their plans for the future…
Can you tell us more about exactly what it is Transaid does and how it was set up?
We work to transform lives in Africa by reducing death and injury on the roads and ensuring that people have access to essential health care services when they most need it. Transaid is the brainchild of The Princess Royal, who saw that the skills of the UK logistics sector could make a real difference for people in Africa. We were originally an organisation that focused on emergency relief and we have transitioned over the years. Today we work with local partners and governments to help people take charge of their own health and livelihoods in an effective and sustainable way.
In recent years, how has Transaid reached out and helped develop both people and the industry?
Transaid and our partners are helping to improve lives on a daily basis. For example, every day approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to the World Health Organisation. The staggering fact is that 99% of all maternal deaths occur in economically developing countries. This is why we work where we do and ensure that pregnant women have transport to health facilities when they need it most. In Northern Nigeria, for example, our Emergency Transport Scheme has now transferred over 14,000 pregnant women since 2013.
Our professional driver training work sees Transaid and our partners train trainers and thousands of drivers every year. This is reducing death and injury on the roads as well as professionalising the industry and helping create employment.
We also have 35 corporate partners who help us in so many ways. These include Yusen Logistics, Ligentia, XPO Logistics and DHL. One of these ways is through the secondment of professional volunteers. This is helping people share experience and knowledge and helping strengthen the industry across the globe. XPO Logistics, for example, offer their graduates the opportunity to be seconded to one of our road safety projects for six months, during which they directly contribute to our work; other companies send their employees for shorter periods of time to carry out specific training courses. These may be in the carriage of dangerous goods, in tyre safety or defensive driver training, depending on the needs of our partners.
How does Transaid set itself apart from any competitors in the industry?
Transaid is quite niche in what we do. Unlike some international development organisations we work very closely with the private sector and help to share best practice. For example in our professional driver training work we have a consortium formed of senior representatives from the UK that helps to guide the strategic direction of our work.
What experience do you have personally within the logistics industry?
I started my career in the logistics industry, joining Wincanton as a graduate trainee back in 2003.
I worked as Solution Design Manager and then moved into implementations and project management, especially of new start-up operations or transfer of third-party logistics providers. I worked in the UK, France and Ireland with Wincanton before getting involved with Transaid.
How have you seen your industry grow within the last 5 years?
The international development sector has faced a number of challenges in the last few years. Funding from UK and US
governments, for example, has become more unpredictable and Brexit casts other uncertainties. However, over the last five years Transaid has continued to grow in the scale and the impact of our work.
We are now working in more countries and with more partners than ever before.
Can you tell us more about your ‘Knowledge Centre’ and the benefits you have seen?
Transaid has an online Knowledge Centre where we host all our material, for example tools, case studies and reports. We hope that by making information freely available we can help reach more people. Our Knowledge Centre receives over 100 downloads a month and we are passionate about sharing what we know about transport and logistics with partners in Africa.
What core values are lived through Transaid daily?
Partnership, integrity, expertise and innovation
Have you seen any economic or political changes that could affect your business in more recent times?
Political changes regularly affect out work and it is something we have to be very mindful of. From changes in government priorities at home and abroad to instability around elections for example, they can all have an impact. Many of the countries we work in have fragile economies and changes in the price of copper or a poor rainy reason can have extraordinary consequences.
Is there a way for people to get involved with your development of people around the world?
Absolutely! There are all sorts of ways to support.
We have a corporate membership scheme, we send professional experts out to support our programmes overseas, we have an ambassador scheme and we run annual cycle and challenge events. In fact this week we are launching LEJOG to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We are really excited about this challenge. Taking place in June 2019, people will have the option to cycle the full 12-day, 972-mile route, one three-day section, multiple sections, or to submit a relay team. Even before the official launch we have had lots of companies committing to submitting a team of four for the relay option, and we hope to raise £200,000 from this challenge in celebration of our 20th anniversary. To find out more please visit the Transaid website or contact Harry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7387 8136.
Where do you get the expertise to help people transform their own lives?
From a number of places! We have a hardworking and skilled team at Transaid and I am proud of every member of it. We also work with very capable local partners such as non-governmental organisations in Africa, with government training centres, with talented individuals and of course with the private sector. One of the really nice things about Transaid is that we facilitate the sharing of expertise and knowledge. A UK-based trainer might travel to Tanzania to deliver HGV training to a group of local trainers. In turn our professional volunteers have a unique and rewarding experience and invariably they find they have had a learned a great deal themselves.
How have you shaped the way in which people in foreign countries get access to vital healthcare?
We are working to reach the least supported and ensure nobody is left behind. In practical terms this means providing women and children access to the health care they need and often this involves addressing a gap in transport at the first mile – from the rural household to the first-level health facility. We look at what transport is in place already and how we can build on that to ensure it is available and affordable.
In Nigeria we work with the transport union, who provide free-for-use transport in emergencies. Over 14,000 women have benefited from this scheme in Adamawa State.
In Madagascar we also work to bring health services closer to the people. We train and equip community health volunteers and provide them with bicycles so they can reach many more families and provide advice and health commodities. We have worked with over 1,000 such health workers. In Zambia we have just started a really important programme which is helping to ensure a ground-breaking new malaria drug is available to children who contract severe malaria in Serenje district. We are working with a wonderful Swiss Foundation called Medicines for Malaria Venture. We work to ensure that communities know the danger signs, we make sure the drug is in stock and we work with the community and district health-management teams to ensure trained people administer the drug and that children have access to emergency transport. For severe malaria quick identification and treatment is crucial for survival. Already children’s lives are being saved and we are looking at how we can scale up this work with our partners the Zambian Ministry of Health.
Have you come across any issues regarding the transportation of pharmaceutical/perishable goods for health care developments?
Yes. This is a key challenge: on the pharma side it’s often very challenging for governments to ensure that temperature-controlled vaccines, for example, stay cool, especially the further down the supply chain they travel. Ensuring that stock is on the shelves in rural health centres and hospitals is challenging…I’ve been to some that only receive a delivery every three months and can be cut off for six months or more in the rainy season.
What challenges have you overcome in your time at Transaid?
There are a number of challenges we face. If you take professional driver training then we work in countries where there is often limited legislation, regulation or enforcement. This means that when we raise standards through training there are still other barriers to running safe fleets. However, things are changing. We are always working in partnership with the government so that we can build practical skills and also work towards policy change. A good example of this is in East Africa where we have worked in partnership with the East Africa Community member states to develop a harmonised training curriculum across the five member states.
In the next five years, what are Transaid’s aims?
We have achieved a lot with our partners and supporters to date but there is still much to do. We aim to reach more communities with our access to health work and ensure that drivers who go out to work have the skills and knowledge to keep them safe. We will expand our reach in these two core areas in Africa. We are also working on better understanding the impact of our work and measurement of this, as well as ensuring our solutions are robust, sustainable and scalable.