COVID-19: Response In Africa
International Medical Corps has been working closely with Burundi’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and other key stakeholders for a number of years to protect the country from Ebola, and has leveraged these preparedness activities to support the country’s COVID-19 contingency plans. Our team activated 10 COVID-19 steering committees in 10 health districts and trained rapid response teams (RRTs), establishing district-based coordination in the provinces of Muyinga, Ngozi, Kirundo and Kayanza, bordering Rwanda and Tanzania. With support from International Medical Corps staff from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Burundi mission has provided training on COVID-19 for almost 600 healthcare providers, and provided training-of-trainers sessions for an additional 67 MoH personnel. The country team has helped the government conduct screening and follow-up at Bujumbura International Airport, examining incoming passengers from countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and it has provided training on COVID-19 risk communication to more than 1,000 health and non-health personnel at the airport and at the hotels where suspected cases are quarantined. Our Burundi team continues to help the MoH expand COVID-19 response capacity at the provincial level, strengthening training committees, setting up district RRTs, and improving infection prevention and control (IPC) and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) conditions in health facilities, including five provincial hospitals—in Cibitoke, Ngozi, Gitega, Karuzi and Makamba—as well as refugee camps and points of entry. We have constructed COVID-19 triage units at the five provincial hospitals we serve and equipped them with hygiene materials, including handwashing stations and soap. International Medical Corps has trained 458 frontline staff, and supported 303 primary health facilities and 16 hospitals with COVID-19 supplies since late February. In addition, through a local partner, International Medical Corps continues to conduct community outreach and education programs through engagement with religious and administrative leaders, and has supported the broadcast of COVID-19 prevention messages through five community radio stations, completed IPC training for 69 participants and printed 240 copies of COVID-19 policies and protocols. The Burundi team will soon begin implementing a COVID-19 response in densely populated Gitega province that will provide IPC and personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, on-the-job training, community awareness-raising and facilitation of a COVID-19 steering committee to strengthen response coordination.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to persist in Cameroon while the government and its response partners fight to maintain hygiene, social distancing and surveillance efforts in the face of a general perception that COVID-19 is receding. The coming weeks will be critical, as the country resumes normal life and business in spite of ongoing community transmission. Nearly 7 million children resumed school on October 5, after more than 31,850 schools were closed in March. International Medical Corps has been responding to COVID-19 in Cameroon by screening patients, training healthcare workers on prevention and treatment, raising awareness in refugee camps of COVID-19 and how to prevent it, and distributing PPE to frontline health staff. Since March 27, our team has been implementing a COVID-19 response and prevention project in the Minawao refugee camp in the Far North, which hosts more than 60,000 refugees, and where malnutrition is widespread. To date, health teams have trained 60 health workers and 186 outreach volunteers in COVID-19 prevention, screened 7,447 patients for COVID-19 and reached 155,099 people with COVID-19 prevention messaging. Recently, we also trained 78 community health volunteers on infant and young-child feeding in a COVID-19 context, to strengthen the nutrition and health of children during the pandemic. The mission has distributed 46,377 hygiene and PPE items to community health workers and frontline staff in the Far North, North and East regions, including 19,867 masks and 20,035 bars of soap. In Cameroon’s East region, we have trained 93 community health workers, who have reached 60,041 people in vulnerable communities with COVID-19 prevention education. In August, we trained 21 staff in psychological first aid, enabling them to provide emotional and physiological support to patients and families affected by COVID-19.
The Central African Republic
International Medical Corps was asked by the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) to lead CAR’s Community Engagement Committee, a consortium that also includes Oxfam, the Danish Refugee Council and Concern Worldwide, to support the country’s COVID-19 response. Activities began in Bangui and its major corridors that will target more than 373,500 community members. The program will strengthen response capacity for COVID-19 detection at the primary healthcare level, improve community hygiene activities and improve psychosocial support for infected patients and their communities. The program will also target children who live on the streets, benefitting a very large and vulnerable portion of CAR’s urban youth. So far, we have distributed almost 68,724bars of soap. Additionally, International Medical Corps supported three treatment centres in hospital settings and reached 571,714community members through COVID-19 awareness-raising activities, all through traditional, face-to-face methods. We have screened 9,063 patients for COVID-19, with 352 patients identified as suspected COVID-19 cases. Activities began on a program aiming to build upon existing local-response capabilities, to ensure coordinated and complementary activities for the community and most vulnerable. Activities include preparedness and response support for COVID-19 health services at Bria, Bambari and Birao health centers and hospitals by setting up a screening room for triage and isolation of patients, providing case management through a 20-bed inpatient facility at each hospital, and procuring PPE, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies and equipment.
The Chad country mission closed in June 2020. Before the closing, International Medical Corps completed a two-month project responding to COVID-19 at Chad’s UNION district hospital in Ndjamena. Our team trained 50 Ministry of Health staff on how to use PPE, how to detect COVID-19 symptoms and triage patients, and how to implement IPC measures. In addition, our team provided 10,060 non-sterile gloves, 600 gowns, 1,240 pieces of soap, 120 units of bleach, 650 face masks, 10 bottles of hand sanitizer gel and 20 pairs of protective scrubs to the hospital.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
Despite entering a second phase of reopening, the DRC has recorded a 15% decrease in the number of new COVID-19 cases over the past week. Our DRC mission has trained 2,568 frontline staff and community health workers (CHWs) on COVID-19 case management, IPC, community-based surveillance and risk communication for behavior change. To date 769,770people have been screened for COVID-19 at supported facilities, with 5,674identified as suspected cases. The DRC mission has completed training on IPC for all staff members at facilities we support. So far, 94,507 community members have been reached through traditional means of communication, such as awareness-raising activities by CHWs, community-based organizations and community action groups. Additionally, more than 262,450community members have been reached through remote measures, such as COVID-19 prevention messages disseminated through SMS and radio. The DRC mission has so far distributed more than 114,250 items of hygiene items and PPE to its community health workers, patients and frontline staff, including 89,459 gloves, 3,745 gowns, 6,635 masks for healthcare workers, 2,655 masks for patients and 689 bars of soap, among other items. International Medical Corps continues to partner with the Ministry of Health in responding to the pandemic by strengthening IPC measures in supported health facilities across North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika provinces, targeting 82 health facilities under our COVID-19 response.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, International Medical Corps’ team has continued to provide programs to beneficiaries in the Gambella, Oromia and Somalia regions covering health; nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and support; and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). The mental health team has conducted stress management workshops for government staff in refugee camps, while the sexual and reproductive health program has focused on educating youth and adolescents on the virus through a variety of messages in local languages. Our GBV teams have provided briefings on how to prevent COVID-19, while ensuring safety during in-person activities, such as information sessions, group psychosocial support, skill-building sessions for survivors and others at women- and girl-friendly spaces. The nutrition team also has focused on measures to slow the spread of the virus, including frequent handwashing, maintaining physical distancing and wearing facemasks, while continuing to provide services in a safe manner. In the past two weeks, International Medical Corps-supported facilities have screened 18,860 patients for the virus, and have distributed 2,980 PPE and IPC items (80 gloves, 2,500 masks and 400 sanitizers). The country team is continuing to participate in national COVID-19 coordination meetings with different groups, including the national government and other implementing partners. International Medical Corps supported six coordinating bodies during meetings, and trained 472 non-staff frontline workers on COVID-19 case management and IPC.
When the pandemic struck, International Medical Corps mobilized quickly to address the COVID-19 threat, teaching rapid response teams at the country’s National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) about the virus, its symptoms, prevention, transmission and treatment, how to conduct contact tracing and how to use PPE. International Medical Corps was the first international NGO operating in the country to support the NCDC by donating PPE for its rapid response teams. By the end of October, the team had distributed 771,208 sets of PPE and trained 2,345 frontline staff to respond to suspected cases of COVID-19. In response to needs identified in consultation with the Libyan government, in June we began supporting five hospitals with training and PPE, while strengthening their capacity to triage and isolate COVID-19 patients. Our efforts have focused on the cities of Sabha, Tripoli and Misrata, which are experiencing the highest numbers of cases. In the Tripoli area, we trained community health workers from migrant communities, to ensure they receive accurate information about the virus and are aware of available services. In August, we established a WhatsApp group for migrants to disseminate COVID-19 information from the WHO and Libya’s NCDC, available in English, French and Arabic. Information distributed to the group’s 100 or so participants has reached about 25,000 beneficiaries. Our mental health counselors continue to support our primary healthcare teams at three field locations and are providing culturally appropriate COVID-19 messages on a country-specific COVID-19 Facebook page. The mental health team is training municipal emergency committees on psychological first aid, including how to mitigate the combined stress of COVID-19 and Libya’s ongoing conflict. We transferred our GBV programs to a remote case-management system, ensuring that survivors can access our services despite movement restrictions. Our GBV team also is training social workers from the Libyan Ministry of Social Affairs, as well as frontline healthcare workers, about the heightened risks of GBV during the pandemic, as survivors are now spending prolonged periods at home with their abusers.
The COVID-19 pandemic is at a critical juncture in Mali following a military coup on August 18 that led to the dissolution of the current government. With only temporary resolutions reached on the transitional government, the future of COVID-19 response, prevention and testing efforts are now in jeopardy, with cases on the rise. International Medical Corps has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in places where we have active programming, including Timbuktu and Ségou, by training health staff, disinfecting key public places and health facilities, and distributing medicine and WASH supplies. We so far have reached 80 health facilities with COVID-19 activities and trained 136 frontline staff on COVID-19 treatment and prevention. As part of the national COVID-19 Task Force of the Health Cluster, International Medical Corps’ Mali team meets regularly with governmental counterparts in capital, Bamako, to determine needs and provide technical support, collaborating with such partners as ECHO, OFDA, WHO and UNICEF. The team also has worked with the MoH to fully disinfect 10 mosques, six community health centers, one referral health center and one regional hospital in Timbuktu. Subsequently, we provided WASH kits to these 18 facilities, along with two women’s centers that provide gender-based violence (GBV) support. We have also launched COVID-19 response activities in rural communities outside Timbuktu in Gourma Rharous, where teams have reached 4,403 people with COVID-19 information, and distributed WASH kits in 11 health facilities. Additionally, our teams trained 20 laboratory technicians across four health districts in Timbuktu, to improve COVID-19 sampling and specimen management at health facilities. In Ségou, our Mali team has distributed handwashing materials to 19 health clinics and 39 public sites, and launched COVID-19 activities in 19 communities in the San health district, including prevention education and the distribution of hygiene supplies. We also recently began an intervention that will support the evacuation of humanitarian staff affected by COVID-19 to Bamako for treatment. International Medical Corps health volunteers have reached 13,955 people with COVID-19 information since March. To ensure the safety of volunteers and frontline health staff in Mali, International Medical Corps has provided 12,686 PPE and hygiene items.
In Nigeria, International Medical Corps has been responding to COVID-19 by training community volunteers on IPC and referral pathways for health services, and serving on the national COVID-19 Task Force. To date, we have trained 3,207 frontline staff and reached 94,112 people with COVID-19 messaging. The Nigeria mission has also delivered 13,481 sanitation supplies, including hand sanitizer, face masks and chlorine for water treatment. Our WASH team has collaborated with other humanitarian partners to distribute 444,940 bars of soap to households and has put in place an additional 107 handwashing stations in IDP camps. Our nutrition team continues to provide services through 15 outpatient therapeutic programs, providing COVID-19 prevention messages during nutrition screenings for 24,675 children. On July 1, the country team started a new COVID-19 program in Damboa that will support WASH activities at five IDP camps, provide supplies and capacity-building support for IPC to one health facility and ensure that protection and GBV prevention are integral to all activities. This project will target 166,000 beneficiaries, including 99,000 IDPs. Our food-security and livelihoods team continues to provide cash-based transfers and commodities to 130,896 people, while providing education on COVID-19. The team will soon expand to Kano, to provide cash-based transfers to 12,700 households and support general food distributions provided by the government to 63,500 beneficiaries. The team also provided a refresher training of volunteer community mobilizers on COVID-19 prevention, with 72 female participants.
In Somalia, International Medical Corps is coordinating its response to COVID-19 through the Ministry of Health at both the federal and regional government levels, and is a member of Somalia’s Inter-Agency Risk Communication and Community Engagement Taskforce. We completed a COVID-19 isolation centre within the Galkacyo South Hospital, about 500 miles northwest of Mogadishu. Elsewhere, we have donated PPE to humanitarian partners in Jowhar, and have trained more than 600 staff on IPC measures, how to recognize COVID-19 symptoms, how the virus spreads and how to use PPE. Our GBV team has conducted focus group discussions with women and girls across our four operational areas, asking what they know about COVID-19, how they receive information and what their main concerns are about the virus. We have also conducted a baseline survey of COVID-19 knowledge, attitudes and practices in our areas of work, conducting the survey remotely to prevent virus transmission. We included phone-based household questionnaires and key informant interviews with a number of stakeholders, including Ministry of Health staff, traditional birth attendants, traditional healers, health centre committees and religious leaders. International Medical Corps-supported health facilities in four of Somalia’s 18 regions continue to screen people for signs of the virus. In October, we screened nearly 25,000 people for COVID-19 and reached more than 48,000 community residents through COVID-19 awareness-raising activities. In addition, we are broadcasting radio messages about COVID-19 on popular FM stations to reach as many people as possible. To help raise awareness and correct misinformation about the pandemic, we are operating toll-free phone lines at our field sites, enabling community residents to receive accurate messages and information about COVID-19. Since September, we have been supporting a popular, monthly call-in radio program, hosted by a medical doctor, to answer COVID-related questions and correct misinformation about the disease. Facebook recently began a targeted ad campaign to support our COVID-related health messaging to local markets. The campaign will run for four weeks; so far, the ads have received more than 4,000 views.
International Medical Corps continues to lead the pandemic response in South Sudan, serving as co-lead of the country’s COVID-19 Case Management and IPC Technical Working Group. We developed the national Case Management Strategy and a clinical management guide based on current WHO and CDC protocols. As the outbreak changed, we worked with the Ministry of Health and WHO to complete an Inter Action Review of the COVID-19 response, to assess progress and improvement opportunities. Our country director joined the South Sudan NGO Forum Steering Committee as an advisory member, to assist the group with COVID-related advocacy, planning and preparedness. By the end of October, we had screened 204,444 people in all three UN protection-of-civilian (PoC) sites: 137,856 in Juba, 42,934 in Malakal and 22,654 in Wau. In addition, we established an adapted triaging system to pre-sort patients symptomatically to reduce transmission in the PoC facilities. At our health facilities in Juba, Malakal and Wau, we have screened 203,346 patients. An infectious disease unit (IDU) that we co-manage in Juba is the sole medical facility in the capital—and the largest in the country—capable of treating COVID-19 patients. In addition to inpatient medical care, we provide nutritional and psychosocial support, and since March have trained more than 320 healthcare workers in IPC and clinical management. Since April, we have provided on-the-job training and supervision to almost 460 healthcare staff at the Juba IDU and PoC on case management, standard precautions of IPC, COVID-19 nutrition and anthropometry, safe patient transportation, psychological first aid, pharmaceutical dispensary, and medical and PPE logistics. We have reached 121,754 people residing at the three PoC sites with risk communication messages focused on prevention, IPC and behavioral change, and we remotely provide home care for COVID-19 patients with mild and moderate disease. We have extended COVID-19 case management intervention at the Al Muktah primary healthcare clinic in Wau, which was designated by the State Ministry of Health to care for COVID-19 patients in Upper Nile State. Finally, we have deployed a team of ICU specialists to help healthcare workers provide intensive care to critical patients at the IDU and Juba Teaching Hospital.
International Medical Corps continues to respond to COVID-related cases in five of the country’s 18 states: West Darfur, South Darfur, Central Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. We continue to provide lifesaving health and WASH services at the 52 health facilities and community-level clinics we support. We continue to support coordination meetings led by the respective state ministries of health and attended by the various stakeholders involved in the COVID-19 response. During the past two weeks, International Medical Corps screened 11,231 individuals for signs of the virus and continued daily COVID-19 messaging at targeted health facilities, reaching an estimated 26,987 and 66,3199 individuals as direct and indirect beneficiaries respectively. International Medical Corps distributed 7,607 PPE and IPC items during the past two weeks. To support the ongoing surveillance activities, during the past few weeks we selected and trained 37 community health volunteers in all five states on case management, IPC and PPE.
Zimbabwean authorities are gradually relaxing lockdown regulations and reopening the economy, while remaining cautious about public gatherings and promoting social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19. In early 2020, the virus was spread by an influx of returning citizens from South Africa and Botswana, fleeing lockdown-induced economic hardships and job losses, but community transmission has been on the rise in recent months. Although the healthcare system was already overstretched before the pandemic, the situation has now worsened dramatically. For more than a month, 15,000 nurses were on strike over their decreasing wages, affecting all healthcare services. International Medical Corps is implementing two COIVD-19 projects in Zimbabwe. In the first, we are providing WASH and community hygiene promotion activities for more than 31,000 people in Binga, one of the most impoverished, marginalized districts in Zimbabwe, which faces severe water scarcity due to years of drought. In the second, which we are implementing across three provinces, we are targeting 17 health facilities, aiming to rehabilitate WASH facilities within COVID-19 isolation areas. Through our recently completed Amalima Project, our team and their partners have collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to develop educational materials for communities about the COVID-19 pandemic. The program developed 100,000 fliers and 12,000 posters for communities in Bulilima, Mangwe, Gwanda and Tsholotsho on COVID-19 prevention. Those materials have been widely distributed in partnership with more than 300 community health workers who serve in vulnerable communities. We also helped provide 300 bicycles for these community health workers—enabling them to more easily reach remote areas with COVID-19 messaging—as well as 6,000 reusable masks. International Medical Corps has supported three treatment centers and 14 hospitals, which have screened 19,658 patients for COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, our Zimbabwe mission has trained 487 frontline staff, provided COVID-19 awareness-raising activities for 20,340 community members and reached 1.2 million people. Since early July, we have distributed more than 19,991 PPE and IPC items, including masks for healthcare workers, soap, sanitizer and gloves.