Some 2.5 Million People in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru Benefiting from Integrated Health and Microfinance Services

La Paz, Bolivia - On April 12, Freedom from Hunger released a new report titled Integrated Health and Microfinance: Harnessing the Strength of Two Sectors to Improve Health and Alleviate Poverty in the Andes at an event hosted by PROCOSI, a network of private health organizations in Bolivia. The report was produced in collaboration by Freedom from Hunger, the Microcredit Summit Campaign, and the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) with support from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The report presents an overview of the microfinance and health sectors in the Andean region today and short case examples of pioneering microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. MFIs in the Andean region currently serve 7 million rural and urban poor with loans and other financial services, presenting a unique opportunity to extend health services to remote and underserved areas.

Included in the report are findings from a survey conducted in 2011 of 24 MFIs in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, which shows that they reach more than 630,000 clients with a range of health interventions-nearly half of which was achieved by five MFIs in Bolivia. With an average family of four, that makes 2.5 million people benefiting from these services in the Andean region. On average, these MFIs reach two-thirds of their clients with health services and several have extended their health programs to provide access to 100% of their clients.

Unexpected health events (health shocks) are the most common reason for loan defaults and can derail the efforts of poor clients to build and sustain successful income-generating activities. MFIs can provide valuable social benefits while at the same time enhancing their financial performance over the long term by strengthening client loyalty and differentiating themselves from their competitors. The report outlines the range and frequency of the different health needs being addressed by MFIs.

As Soledad Ovando Green, general manager of Microempresas de BancoEstado in Chile, explains in the Foreword to the report, "The financial organizations that reach micro-entrepreneurs can play a key role to improve health: they can help by leading community awareness campaigns, building local distribution points and networks by facilitating linkages to healthcare providers for micro-entrepreneurs and their families and with the provision of health financing products."

The report also presents examples of MFIs providing access to appropriate and affordable healthcare services. A cost-benefit analysis of one strategy found that CRECER (an MFI in Bolivia) could provide health camps, called Health Days, at a cost of $0.40 per client annually. As of October 2012, nearly 12,000 PAP smears, colposcopies, and other cervical screening tests have been performed at over 800 Heath Days.

The report is part of an ongoing Health and Microfinance Alliance effort to promote dialogue and encourage further exploration of and support for multi-sectoral approaches that integrate microfinance and health. Research indicates that this low-cost, sustainable strategy shows tremendous potential for improving both the health and financial status of India's poor and marginalized populations.

To download the report, visit http://bit.ly/AndesReport2012.

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Freedom from Hunger:

Freedom from Hunger is an international development organization that brings innovative and sustainable self-help solutions to the fight against chronic hunger and poverty. By partnering with local microfinance institutions (MFIs) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Asia, Africa and Latin America, Freedom from Hunger is reaching 4.4 million women in 2012, equipping them and their families with resources they need to build futures of health, hope and dignity. www.freedomfromhunger.org

The Microcredit Summit Campaign:

The Microcredit Summit Campaign (the "Campaign"), a project of RESULTS Educational Fund, is the largest global network of institutions and individuals involved in microfinance and is committed to two important goals: 1) reaching 175 million of the world's poorest families with microfinance and 2) helping 100 million families lift themselves out of severe poverty. The Campaign convenes a broad array of actors involved with microfinance to promote best practices in the field, to stimulate the exchange of knowledge and to work towards alleviating world poverty through microfinance. In Partnership with the Microfinance Council of the Philippines, Inc (MCPI), the Campaign is organising the 2013 Partnerships against Poverty Summit October 9-11 in the Philippines. www.microcreditsummit.org

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