Technical assistance (TA) makes up a substantial proportion of development cooperation for health (over a quarter on some estimates) so it is important to make the most of these resources.

Technical Assistance can be for:

capacity building (e.g. strengthening health information systems)

filling gaps (e.g. sending doctors to address a shortage)

delivering specific technical inputs (e.g. actuarial skills for designing health insurance)

project management. 

TA can support government and non-government organizations.

TA can include long and short-term support, intermittent or as-needed inputs: peer-to-peer links and networks for sharing experience.

TA can come from within the country or externally and may involve South-South Cooperation.  

Current issues in TA

IHP+ commissioned rapid reviews of TA in four countries: Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tanzania and Uganda. A summary of lessons from all these reviews, with further analysis, is also available.

Key issues include:

Demand for TA

Despite recognition that TA should be based on demand from receiving organisations, this is not always the case in practice.

TA can be effective when it is linked to clear political priorities, and when there is consensus on priorities for support.

On the supply side

The types of TA available and procedures for selection are often unclear to governments.

Sometimes TA was selected by the funder and lacked accountability to the receiving institution.

While TA objectives often included capacity building, the terms of reference were usually not explicit about how this was to be achieved or assessed.

TA management and operational issues

Countries have policies and agreements with partners on how to identify and manage TA, but these are often ignored in practice.

For TA to be effective and its impact to be sustained, there need to be staff to work alongside TA and systems that will continue in future.  

Suggestions for reviewing and improving TA

In line with IHP+ principles, TA should be:

  • strategically planned to support health priorities and address critical barriers to achieving results
  • well-coordinated and efficiently provided, to ensure value for money and avoid duplication
  • designed to establish sustainable systems and staff capacities that continue after the TA.

The IHP+ brief How to improve Technical Assistance gives suggestions for governments, development partners and other agencies to improve TA.  

IHP+ can provide support to countries and partners that want to move forward on improving TA. Please contact us.