START International is an official project partner of the Cascading Climate Health Risks in African Cities (CASCADE) project, which falls under the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS II) program. The DELTAS Africa program supports African-led research and scientific leadership to address health and development challenges on the continent. It is funded under the Science for Africa Foundation, with support from Wellcome Trust and the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
CASCADE was launched during a project inception meeting that was held in Cape Town, South Africa from 20 to 21 November 2023. A total of 25 participants representing five cities across the Southern, Eastern, and West African regions attended the meeting. These cities are Accra, Cape Town, Harare, Johannesburg, and Kampala.
The eight project partners include the University of Cape Town’s Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG), which is the lead institution led by Prof. Bruce Hewitson and co-led by Dr. Chris Jack. Other project partners include the University of Witwatersrand (WITS) in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) working with the city of Harare in Zimbabwe, the University of Ghana in Accra, Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and the African Population & Health Research Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.
The objective of the meeting was to officially launch the CASCADE project, have participants meet in person, and discuss the overarching project objectives. Additionally, each team had an opportunity to reflect on how the project objectives can be contextualized in their home spaces. The project has working groups that concentrate on the three project objectives which are the climate risk pathways and their intersection with health in the cities; climate interventions, as well as governance dynamics.
Capacity building is a core component of the program, and as such, emphasizes the leadership and empowerment aspects of early career researchers, ensuring practical experiences on the ground across the continent. Working together with the Red Cross Crescent’s Climate Change Center, START will co-lead the capacity-building and learning components of the project, including a Scholars Research program. The project intends to engage up to 50 early to mid-career researchers who will be enrolled as post graduate students across the five universities. Diverse approaches to learning, inclusive of social and professional training will be used to enrich the learning experiences including experiential learning, city-to-city exchanges, and peer-to-peer learning.
After the launch meeting of the project, the CUT team, together with Mzime Murisa from START, engaged officials from the Harare City Council. The aim of this meeting, which was held on 06 December 2023, was an initial step in the engagement process with the city and to gain a deeper understanding of the city’s needs in terms of health priorities. This meeting helped to shape the way forward in the city as they proposed the institutionalization of the project as an effective way to get buy-in.