Since 2005, the European Microfinance Prize has rewarded innovative projects in inclusive finance and impact. It has just been awarded to Fonkoze Foundation, a Haitian funding institution that works to provide access to health care for the most disadvantaged.
This award is jointly organized by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) and the Inclusive Finance Network Luxembourg (InFiNe.lu). This year, the jury received 43 entries from 32 different countries. Three finalists were selected, present in duplex during the award ceremony, which was held in a hybrid format, in the presence of Grand Duchess Maria Teresa.
The ambition is therefore to support the best projects by awarding a grant of 100,000 euros and to promote successful initiatives in inclusive microfinance to as many people as possible around the world. The theme for 2021 was “Inclusive financing and health care”. The two notions are interdependent and factors of inequality by nature.
Health insurance is rarely accessible to the informal economy which predominates in these areas, and savings, rare but organised, remain the most affordable means of financing for families in the event of health concerns. The three finalist microfinance providers (Fonkoze in Haiti, Crecer in Bolivia, and Dreamlopments in Thailand) each showed, in video, the reality of these inequalities and the impact of their actions on a daily basis, but also in the medium term.
The first financial risk is that of health
To be born a woman, in certain places of the globe, is to have to ask a man’s permission to be treated. It’s giving birth alone, regardless of the complications. It’s seeing your children die at a young age, for lack of basic medicines… Everyone recalled that health is a permanent right for everyone, but also that the first financial risk for families and micro-entrepreneurs is the risk of health. Thus, in the event of illness or accident, the costs related to care (hospitalization, journeys, medication, etc.) and loss of income can push already destitute families into total precariousness overnight.
We are proud, and that really encourages us to go further. But in this type of mission, we never arrive at our destination.
There are many areas where it is also materially, but also culturally, inconceivable to seek treatment. Microfinance institutions have a social role to play here. Fonkoze responds to these challenges in Haiti, with Boutik Santé, a training initiative for screening and health education. And provides additional support to those living in remote areas. Doctors and public health experts train nurses there who, in turn, train those targeted by Fonkoze, including community health entrepreneurs. The latter are designated to carry out, in their Health Boutik, basic health screenings, provide health education sessions and offer local health and hygiene products.
The resilience of project leaders
Carine Roenen, director of Fonkoze, was particularly moved to receive this award and recalled that “the Boutik Santé system has been ready since 2012, but it was only since 2014 that we were really able to start being effective. We had to persevere, review and adapt our strategy to new objectives, even more so since the Covid epidemic. We are proud, and that really encourages us to go further. But in this type of mission, we never arrive at our destination.
In video and live, Franz Fayot, Minister for Cooperation and Humanitarian Action, and also a member of the grand jury, clarified: “If traditional insurers are reluctant to extend health care coverage to people in the need, we need projects that promote innovative solutions to improve access to health services. Financially excluded people not only need better access to health care, but also the ability to pay for it!”
The 2021 winner and runners-up projects can be viewed here.