The African Paediatric Fellowship Programme (APFP) is a unique research and teaching programme focused on expanding paediatric medical skills across the African continent to ultimately improve child healthcare. The programme was established in the department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Cape Town and acts as a sustainable skills pipeline in sub-Saharan Africa by offering all the required resources and a rich learning environment for successful fellowship training.
The APFP recently hosted its second colloquium at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital titled “Looking back…Moving forward”. The meeting was attended by many esteemed paediatric medical professionals, as well as 15 current fellows from nine different African countries. Partner institutions, APFP alumni, current trainees, APFP supervisors, donors, Red Cross Children’s Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital registrars and consultants also attended the event. The colloquium included fascinating presentations from referring supervisors from seven different centres in Africa on the health structures, progress and further training needs required in their countries.
According to the APFP programme coordinator, Avril du Preez, the meeting was very effective in gathering much needed feedback from the programme’s various partner institutions. It was evident that many of the countries have similar health structures and demanding paediatric health needs that need to be answered, but unfortunately the lack of resources greatly affects the progress made by each country. Nonetheless, many of these countries have proven to be extremely resourceful and have achieved a lot by taking on creative and innovative approaches.
The colloquium not only served as a platform for the APFP to determine the healthcare status and needs in the major countries that the programme supports, but it was also a celebration of the APFP’s many great achievements to date. Since its launch in 2007, the APFP has achieved a great deal. The programme has managed to successfully partner with 40 institutions across 12 African countries, where a need has been identified. The programme has also seen over 60 African fellows successfully complete training, equipping them with the scientific and clinical knowledge to identify and manage child diseases – a skill which was previously very scarce in most African countries.
Many of the APFP fellows returning to their home regions are not only the first trained sub-specialists in their hospital or country, but some have also been extremely involved in establishing specialist units in their hospital. Another major achievement for the programme was the establishment of the Child Nurse Training programme in 2010 which has now successfully resulted in the development of the Clinical Masters in Child Nursing at the University of Malawi – a first in Africa.
Looking back, the APFP along with their partners have accomplished so much since its inception and the programme is on the fast track to adding to and building a truly sustainable workforce in the paediatric healthcare sector in Africa.