Capacity strengthening of local civil society organizations offering HIV services: learning experiences from Liberia


BACKGROUND: With support from PEPFAR and USAID, the FHI 360-led LINKAGES project and subsequent EpiC project implemented a comprehensive package of HIV prevention, care, and treatment services among 10 civil society organizations (CSOs) serving key populations (KPs) in Montserrado County, Liberia. When LINKAGES began, the technical and management capacity of these CSOs was limited. LINKAGES, in collaboration with Pact and EpiC, implemented capacity-building innovations to enhance technical delivery of HIV Services and improve organizational management systems.
DESCRIPTION: The project conducted baseline capacity-building assessments with all 10 CSO partners using two standardized toolkits: the integrated technical and organizational capacity assessment and the Organization Performance Index (OPI). Institutional strengthening plans were then developed and implemented to address the issues identified and monitor progress. Project engagement with the 10 CSO partners around internal control systems, operational management, and governance helped foster ownership of HIV service delivery in Montserrado County.
LESSONS LEARNED: From April 2019 through September 2021, EpiC Liberia trained all 10 CSOs in HIV community interventions to empower peer outreach workers, people living with HIV (PLHIV), and KPs, including the members of 23 HIV support groups, to understand and manage their needs, risks, and rights regarding HIV services. The project also trained CSO leadership in organizational system development, which focused on organizational management and operations policies, resource mobilization, sustainability, partnership, and networking to enable delivery of optimal HIV services. At the first OPI assessment conducted to measure performance and impact, two out of four performance measurements ' 'efficiency' and 'effectiveness' ' achieved the maximum score of 4.0. 'Relevance in meeting the needs of beneficiaries' scored 2.5 and 'sustainability' scored 1.0. Measures to improve relevance and sustainability are being implemented, and some CSOs already have won new grants and developed successful small business enterprises. These efforts contributed to reaching 15,000 individuals with a comprehensive HIV service package, testing 12,000 individuals for HIV, and identifying 850 individuals as living with HIV, 94% of whom were linked to treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Ongoing Support for CSO capacity building in technical and management operations facilitated the building of a strong KP HIV program and network of KPs and PLHIV.

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