As DFC's Managing Director for Health Initiatives, Nafisa Jiwani oversees work on building more resilient health systems and co-chairs the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jiwani joined DFC from the U.S Department for Health and Human Services (HHS), where she worked on policy and strategy at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and later served as a Deputy Senior Advisor for the Secretary of HHS on Value-Based Care.

What led you to join DFC?
I have spent significant time in East Africa and India on programs focused on capacity development and healthcare delivery. Coming to DFC was an opportunity to align my passion for development and my experience in public health. My goal at DFC is to help provide strategic guidance that strengthens health systems around the world through sustainable, private investment financing.

What are some of the unique challenges developing countries face in responding to COVID-19?
Poor access to healthcare was already a challenge and is intensified by the pandemic. Further, many of the ways we have responded to the pandemic here in the U.S. may not translate well in developing countries. In countries with densely populated urban centers, it is not always possible to enforce physical distancing. The public health challenge is to determine which techniques will help bend the curve. Digital health initiatives may be even more critical to support contact tracing in certain geographies.

How can DFC help address these challenges?
We can leverage our financing capabilities and our ability to be agile to creatively find opportunities for growth and long-term sustainability around health system resiliency. This includes supporting manufacturing and supply chains around the production and distribution of personal protective equipment, ventilators, therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines.

Additionally, investments in nutrition and clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are fundamental to health. While we continue efforts around the pandemic, it is important to note that much of the U.S. Government’s work in global health has traditionally focused on aid and grants to combat infectious disease. DFC recognized the gap of resources around non-communicable diseases and made it a priority to address a spectrum of health needs.