Good work: IRC workers administer a polio vaccine to South Sudanese refugees in Kenya
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Immunisation has protected millions of children in developing countries, but in recent years the International Rescue Committee — the FT’s appeal partner — has seen vaccination rates in some countries level off or even fall.

“Even within one district you have huge variations,” says Emmanuel d’Harcourt, senior health director of the non-governmental organisation, which supports humanitarian aid, relief and development in more than 30 countries.

There are examples of healthcare workers doing “amazing things” with little recognition, d’Harcourt says. However, vaccination programmes are often in areas where conflict, natural disaster and breakdown of state systems and structures put workers under great pressure.

Problems can include flawed processes at the village level, stock management and supply issues, strain on frontline workers’ motivation and poor uptake of vaccinations by families.

According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5m children under five every year die from diseases that are preventable by vaccine — roughly equivalent to the number of babies born in the UK in the past two years.

David Miliband, IRC chief executive and former UK foreign secretary, hopes MBA students can help. “Whether caused by an armed group blocking a medical shipment, or families refusing to walk sick children to a health centre that may not have cold storage facilities, people’s lives are blighted by a lack of access to vaccines,” he says.

“Solutions are desperately needed to help the IRC reach the ‘last mile’ — the 20 per cent of children yet to be vaccinated against preventable diseases. This year’s MBA Challenge is a real opportunity for the next generation of business leaders to make a vital contribution.”

IRC chief executive David Miliband

Registered teams will submit a short proposal on how to improve management and support of healthcare workers and the delivery of immunisation. They will address how the IRC can develop supervision and mentoring, improve work structures and allocate and prioritise resources.

Shortlisted teams will be partnered with mentors and asked to create a 12-page business plan on their proposal. They will tackle resource gaps in the most difficult environments and provide analysis, in an attempt to find solutions that can be implemented.

The challenge is open to teams of between three and eight students, of whom at least one must be studying at a university or business school in Europe, a second in the Americas and a third in Asia or Africa. At least one participant in each team must be studying for an MBA at the point of registration.

“MBA students can bring a freshness of thinking and unexpected solutions,” says d’Harcourt.

The winning team will be chosen for its ability to take account of local conditions and for the quality of its ideas. The deadline for team registrations is April 30 2015.

The FT is running a matching service for individuals seeking to join a team. For more information, visit ft.com/mba-challenge or email mba.challenge@ft.com

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A winning way to fight cancer

A business plan that helped World Child Cancer (WCC) to improve access to affordable, reliable medication and treatment in Ghana won the 2014 FT MBA Challenge.

The team behind the plan, Doin’ it for the Kids, was made up of students from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Yale University in the US, Esade Business School in Spain and National University of Singapore Business School. Partnered with Mike Strange, head of global operations for diseases of the developing world at GlaxoSmithKline, the global pharmaceuticals company, they collaborated remotely on the problem over five months.

The final proposal, submitted in September 2014, included ideas for a network of local healers to be given enough training about cancer symptoms to refer children to medical professionals where necessary. There was also a plan for corporate-sponsored family accommodation for those who struggled to afford the travel costs of bringing their children to hospital.

Allison Ogden-Newton, WCC chief executive, was one of the judges on the panel. “Doin’ it for the Kids drilled down to understand the difficulties in obtaining drugs in sub-Saharan countries. They gave a practical approach that we will definitely explore,” she says.

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Test your knowledge in the MBA charity quiz

Last year’s winners: team from Imperial College Business School in London

When did Mark Carney take over as Bank of England governor? How much did Twitter shares surge on their stock market debut in November 2013? Which company turned down Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify, for a job because he did not have a university degree?

Teams of MBA students and alumni are invited to tackle questions about the world of business in our MBA quiz at the FT’s London offices. Last year’s winners, were a team from Imperial College Business School in London.

The quiz will take place on February 24 2015 and will be compèred by FT management editor Andrew Hill. Entry is £2,000 per team and all funds raised will be donated to the International Rescue Committee, the 2014-15 FT appeal partner.

Teams are limited to one per business school. The deadline for entries is February 20 2015. For more details and to find out how to enter a team, see ft.com/mba-quiz.

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