Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Globalization and Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research

“The problem is ours, it is not CRAIDS’ ”. Evaluating sustainability of Community Based Organisations for HIV/AIDS in a rural district in Zambia

Aisling Walsh1*, Chishimba Mulambia2, Ruairi Brugha13 and Johanna Hanefeld4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Division of Population Health Sciences, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Beaux Lane House, Lower Mercer Street, Dublin 2, Ireland

2 Institute of Economic and Social Research, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia

3 Department of Global Health and Development, Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

4 School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

Globalization and Health 2012, 8:40  doi:10.1186/1744-8603-8-40

Published: 28 November 2012



While sustainability of health programmes has been the subject of empirical studies, there is little evidence specifically on the sustainability of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) for HIV/AIDS. Debates around optimal approaches in community health have centred on utilitarian versus empowerment approaches. This paper, using the World Bank Multi-Country AIDS Program (MAP) in Zambia as a case study, seeks to evaluate whether or not this global programme contributed to the sustainability of CBOs working in the area of HIV/AIDS in Zambia. Lessons for optimising sustainability of CBOs in lower income countries are drawn.


In-depth interviews with representatives of all CBOs that received CRAIDS funding (n = 18) and district stakeholders (n= 10) in Mumbwa rural district in Zambia, in 2010; and national stakeholders (n=6) in 2011.


Funding: All eighteen CBOs in Mumbwa that received MAP funding between 2003 and 2008 had existed prior to receiving MAP grants, some from as early as 1992. This was contrary to national level perceptions that CBOs were established to access funds rather than from the needs of communities. Funding opportunities for CBOs in Mumbwa in 2010 were scarce.

Health services: While all CBOs were functioning in 2010, most reported reductions in service provision. Home visits had reduced due to a shortage of food to bring to people living with HIV/AIDS and scarcity of funding for transport, which reduced antiretroviral treatment adherence support and transport of patients to clinics.

Organisational capacity and viability: Sustainability had been promoted during MAP through funding Income Generating Activities. However, there was a lack of infrastructure and training to make these sustainable. Links between health facilities and communities improved over time, however volunteers’ skills levels had reduced.


Whilst the World Bank espoused the idea of sustainability in their plans, it remained on the periphery of their Zambia strategy. Assessments of need on the ground and accurate costings for sustainable service delivery, building on existing community strengths, are needed before projects commence. This study highlights the importance of enabling and building the capacity of existing CBOs and community structures, rather than creating new mechanisms.

Community Based Organisations; HIV/AIDS; Sustainability; World Bank; Zambia; Community participation; Care and support services