Child-Help is the result of solidarity between people confronted with spina bifida and/ or hydrocephalus in the Global North and their counterparts in the Global South. Child-Help developed as an offshoot of the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF). Peers know how complex it is to take care for a child with a congenital disability and to prepare him or her to lead a full and independent life. Healthcare is more advanced in the Global North than in the rest of the world. Child-Help wanted to translate this know-how to possibilities in the Global South.
In 1992, IF's then president Björn Rundström and vice-president Pierre Mertens, organised a workshop during the World Congress of Rehabilitation International in Nairobi (Kenya). There they came into contact with other parents, with social workers, surgeons and NGOs who also worked with people with disabilities.
In 1994, an initial cooperation with the Dutch Liliane Foundation was set up with a budget line for Belgium to share its expertise in medical care with the Global South. With Dr Carla Verpoorten from the Catholic University Leuven (KUL), we organised training for local employees or mediators of the Liliane Foundation on the treatment of children with Spina Bifida.
With the help of IF's Norwegian association, Pierre Mertens, who was IF president between 1995 and 2013, obtained public funds from Norway in 1998. Via Geert Vanneste of the German Christoffel Blind Mission (CBM), projects for our target group were started within CBM projects in Zambia, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Malawi, and later also in Peru, Vietnam, China and Kenya. Money was also made available through IF's Swedish member organisation but only for Tanzania. With each project, we stimulated the establishment of self-help groups that later became completely independent associations. In various countries in Africa, Europe, America and Asia, we find associations that have since become members of IF. You can find the list of these organizations here.
The projects fulfilled a real need and were soon bursting at the seams. Children survived and needed follow-up care. Each year, the projects were inundated by an increasing number of children who called on them for help. The Scandinavian budgets were no longer sufficient and were also limited to countries in East Africa. Yet we received requests for cooperation from many other countries in the Global South where the needs of our target group are also immense.
In order to give the IF projects the necessary funding boost, Pierre Mertens and Lieven Bauwens (former IF director) founded Child-Help Belgium out of IF in 2006 with a branch in Tanzania. Child-Help also supports projects outside of East Africa in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
In addition to Child-Help Belgium, in 2014 Child-Help was established in Italy and the Netherlands. In 2015, Child-Help Germany and in 2016, Child-Help France were also set up. Child-Help Tanzania started in 2019.
These associations formed their umbrella organisation, Child-Help International.
Child-Help International and IF are separate associations but they work together substantively. They support the same projects and have the same partners in various countries. They work with the same experts and follow the same strategy.
Child-Help works without government subsidies relying instead on its own fundraising programmes.