The network program is a collaboration of four public universities in Ethiopia (Ambo Univeristy, Hawassa University, Jimma University and Debre Zeit College of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture (COVMA)) coordinated by Jimma University (JU) and five Flemish universities coordinated by Ghent University (UGent). The coordinating universities in north and south work closely together with partner universities in planning and implementation of the program. The program uses the local PhD schools and collaborative research as entry points to capacity building of partner universities in the south and as routes to contribute to higher education and the health sector development in Ethio-pia. The program leverages the organizational, human and infrastructural capacities that have been created by the IUC program in Jimma University and taps into institutional and professional networks that have been developed over the last 10 years. The network will allow the partner universities to better fulfil their role in terms of research, education and service to society.
The central theme of the network programme is health, which is in line with the VLIR-UOS country strategy. Project 1 focuses on infectious diseases, which remain an important public health problem in Ethiopia. Although the cause of this ongoing disease burden is multifactorial, there is a fundamental lack of human capacity and research culture in the academic institutions that impedes the identification of potential control interventions. Project 2 will deliver better child health and growth through nutrition sensitive agriculture. The third project is more transversal in nature and aims at enhancing institutional performance through improved ICT infrastructure and services through capacity building of ICT professionals of the partner universities. The fourth and last project on network strengthening will tackle common problems shared by the partner universities and as such strengthening their capacity to play an important role in society. The problems addressed will be: (i) brain drain will be tackled by setting up a postdoctoral framework, (ii) the research being too often too fundamental and academic will be translated into interventions ready to be applied to the field and (iii) research results which often collect dust on shelves will be brought to the attention of a larger audience through communication and information channels.