Partner profile: IPHIA
Indigenous People’s Health Improvement Association (IPHIA) is a small local organisation working in Mondul Kiri province. Established in 2009, the organisation has been a key partner in CARE’s health activities in the province since 2011.
IPHIA is one of CARE’s local partners for the Global Fund Health System Strengthening project. As the main implementers of this in Mondul Kiri, IPHIA’s staff work with community members, health centre staff and local government representatives to organise training, improve collaboration between community health representatives and health workers, and support communities to provide feedback on the health services available to them so health centres can take action to improve.
IPHIA is a key player within the health sector in Mondul Kiri. Part of the Mondul Kiri NGO Network, in early 2014 the organisation became the head of the health sector sub-committee. This involves leading 13 health-related NGOs in monthly meetings to raise issues with the Provincial Health Department (PHD) and help solve issues within health organisations. The good relationship that IPHIA has with both Operational Districts and the PHD is one of the key strengths of the organisation, as this allows them to ensure that feedback from individual members of remote communities reaches the ears of the top decision-makers in the province.
Around 80% of Mondul Kiri’s inhabitants are ethnic Phnong, with their own language, culture and traditions distinct from those of the Khmer majority in Cambodia. To reflect this balance in the region, eight of IPHIA’s nine staff are Phnong. This means that activities can be conducted in both Khmer and the native language where needed to ensure that all members of the communities they work with are able to participate. Some staff began their careers working as volunteers in their communities before becoming Community Educators with IPHIA and all are incredibly motivated about their work.
It is not only the existence of more than one ethnic group that makes working in Mondul Kiri more complex than in other areas. The geographical landscape also poses some considerable challenges for staff. Many of the health centres IPHIA works with are located in very remote areas, with the furthest around 100km from the provincial capital. During rainy season road travel can be incredibly difficult, with flooded, muddy conditions making some routes treacherous. However, this does not deter staff, who are incredibly dedicated and frequently battle the elements to reach remote rural communities.
CARE’s partnership with IPHIA has had benefits for both organisations. CARE’s Health System Strengthening project has gained from the local knowledge and contacts of this Mondul Kiri-based NGO, while IPHIA has learned from CARE’s long experience in this field. “Working with CARE has helped to make IPHIA a secure organisation with a good focus on improving the health of people in Mondol Kiri,” says director Em Veasna. “Not only has CARE helped improve our finance and administration systems, but our staff have also received technical support to improve their ability to conduct effective activities and continue improving their skills for the future.”