COVID-19: Response In Africa
The Burundi country mission closed in January 2021. Before the country mission closed, International Medical Corps worked closely with Burundi’s Ministry of Health (MoH) and other key stakeholders for a number of years to protect the country from public health emergencies of international concern and 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 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. In addition, our Burundi team helped 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 constructed COVID-19 triage units at five provincial hospitals and equipped them with hygiene materials, including handwashing stations and soap. Since late February 2020, International Medical Corps trained 458 frontline staff, supported 303 primary health facilities and 16 hospitals with COVID-19 supplies, and reached 2,175 community members through COVID-19 awareness-raising activities. In addition, through a local partner, International Medical Corps conducted community outreach and education programs through engagement with religious and administrative leaders, supported the broadcast of COVID-19 prevention messages through five community radio stations, completed infection prevention and control (IPC) training for 69 participants and printed 240 copies of COVID-19 policies and protocols. The Burundi team also implemented a COVID-19 response in densely populated Gitega province to 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. In total, since late February, our Burundi team reached nearly 1.8 million indirect beneficiaries, distributed 3,293 bars of soap and installed 59 handwashing stations.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon greatly worsened in April 2021, the number of new cases has been falling since July 2021. The government and its response partners are fighting to rapidly step up hygiene, social-distancing and surveillance efforts to combat misperceptions about the disease and its continued presence. Schools, refugee camps, urban centers and hard-to-reach communities are most vulnerable, and continue to be priorities. International Medical Corps has been responding to COVID-19 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 2020, 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. Since June 2020, teams at the camp have reached 4,346 people with education on infant and young-child feeding practices in the COVID-19 context and reached 7,835 people with cooking demonstrations to help mothers and caregivers prevent malnutrition in their children during the pandemic. To further improve COVID-19 healthcare services, we rehabilitated one of the two health centres in Minawao camp, to increase the availability of consultation rooms and strengthen patient-screening capabilities. Our health teams have so far screened 14,656 patients for COVID-19 and reached 285,013 people with COVID-prevention messaging. The mission has distributed 56,512 hygiene and PPE items to community health workers and frontline staff in the Far North, North and East regions. The team also is working with the Ministry of Health to strengthen the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in the country.
Central African Republic
Following a difficult security situation that, due to disputed elections, paused various activities for International Medical Corps and many international and local partners at the field level, response activities combatting a new wave of COVID-19 have ramped up. Last month, the country mission increased its support to an additional static health facility as well as to mobile clinics. In August, we distributed 11,309 items of PPE, including gloves and masks, and essential cleaning supplies. Since last March, we have been supporting the country’s COVID-19 response, after being 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. Activities began in Bangui and its major corridors, targeting more than 373,500 community members to 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 also is targeting children who live on the streets, benefitting a very large and vulnerable portion of CAR’s urban youth. International Medical Corps has so far supported nine treatment centres in hospital settings, distributed 157,044 pieces of PPE and reached 772,922 community members through COVID-19 awareness-raising activities, all through traditional, face-to-face methods. We have screened 671,634 patients for COVID-19, with 3,565 patients identified as suspected COVID-19 cases. In addition, since the pandemic began, we have trained 594 frontline health workers and supported 14 health facilities and six response coordination bodies. Activities also began on a program aiming to build upon existing local-response capabilities to ensure coordinated and complementary activities for the community and most vulnerable. These include preparedness and response support for COVID-19 health services at the Bria, Bambari and Birao health centres 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 sanitiser gel and 20 pairs of protective scrubs to the hospital.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the DRC, launched in April, has been hampered by the circulation of rumors and misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines. To support vaccination efforts, our team in the DRC has helped train 35 risk-communication and community-engagement workers at COVID-19 vaccination sites in South Kivu province. In North and South Kivu, we also briefed 132 community leaders and volunteers on COVID-19 vaccination, enabling them to better engage with their communities and peers. In addition, our team conducted 30 community information sessions through home visits, educational talks, community meetings and presentations at places of worship. Since the resumption of the vaccination campaign in August 2021, following the restocking of vaccine supplies, 83,081 people have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. So far, 10,477 people have come back for their second dose. Since the beginning of the pandemic, International Medical Corps has helped the DRC’s Ministry of Health curb the spread of the virus by enabling COVID-19 screening for almost 2.1 million people and training 4,309 frontline staff and community health workers on COVID-19 case management and infection prevention and control (IPC). We have reached more than 1.2 million community members through both traditional means of communication, such as awareness-raising activities, as well as remote measures, such as COVID-19 prevention messages disseminated through SMS and radio. The DRC mission also has distributed 299,302 hygiene and PPE items.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, International Medical Corps has continued to provide programs to beneficiaries in the Gambella, Oromia and Somalia regions, covering health, nutrition, gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and support, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). The mental health team has conducted stress-management workshops for government staff in refugee camps, while the sexual and reproductive health team has focused on educating youth and adolescents on the virus by providing a variety of messages in local languages. Our GBV teams have provided briefings on how to prevent COVID-19, 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 face masks—while continuing to provide services safely. Since we began our COVID-19 response in March 2020, International Medical Corps-supported facilities have screened 417,577 patients for the virus, and identified 842 suspected cases. We have trained 3,030 frontline workers on COVID-19 modules. The country team continues to participate in national COVID-19 coordination meetings with different groups, including the national government and other implementing partners, and has supported 231 government health facilities, distributed 187,924 PPE and IPC items, and reached 348,009 community members with COVID-19 awareness-raising activities through traditional (face-to-face) methods. We also have reached more than 1.74 million people indirectly with COVID-19 awareness messaging.
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. Since March 2020, the country team has distributed 1,336,164 PPE items and trained 2,217 medical and paramedical staff members to respond to suspected cases of COVID-19. In June 2020, International Medical Corps began supporting five hospitals in Tripoli, Sabha, Benghazi, and Misrata with isolation units, to extend their intensive-care units’ physical and operational capacity and for effective management of COVID-19 cases. Our community health workers continue to provide COVID-19 awareness sessions to internally displaced persons as well as migrants. In Tripoli, trained community health workers from migrant communities are disseminating information on COVID-19 in Arabic, English and French through a dedicated WhatsApp group with about 100 members; they have reached 54,719 people through in-person sessions. Our mental health counsellors support our primary healthcare teams at three field locations and provide culturally appropriate COVID-19 messages on a country-specific COVID-19 Facebook page. The mental health team has trained healthcare workers in remote cities such as Nalut, Alzintan and Albuwanis on psychological first aid, focusing on how to cope with stress caused by the pandemic. We are also providing psychosocial support services at one of the largest COVID-19 isolation centres in Tripoli. We are implementing GBV programming and response through our women and girls’ safe spaces. The monitoring and evaluation team has created and maintains an interactive COVID-19 online dashboard with automatic weekly updates of relevant data.
The second phase of immunization in Mali began on August 23, 2021. Provisional counts as of September 7 indicate that 92,014 people have been vaccinated for COVID-19. International Medical Corps continues to educate staff and community members about the advantages of the COVID-19 vaccine, including training 108 health agents in the health districts of Timbuktu and Gourma Rharous. Meanwhile, our teams continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in Timbuktu and Ségou by training health staff, disinfecting health facilities and public places, and distributing medicine and WASH supplies. We so far have reached 120 health facilities with COVID-19 activities and trained 192 frontline staff on COVID-19 treatment and prevention. To date, 587 people have been screened for COVID-19 at facilities supported by International Medical Corps. As part of the national COVID-19 taskforce of the Health Cluster, International Medical Corps’ Mali team meets regularly with governmental counterparts in the capital, Bamako, to determine needs and provide technical support, collaborating with such partners as the WHO and UNICEF. The team also has worked with the Ministry of Health to fully disinfect 10 mosques, six community health centres, one referral health centre and one regional hospital in Timbuktu. Subsequently, we provided WASH kits to these 18 facilities, along with two women’s centres that provide gender-based violence (GBV) support. In Ségou, our 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. International Medical Corps health volunteers have reached 17,677 people with COVID-19 information since March 2020. To ensure the safety of volunteers and frontline health staff in Mali, International Medical Corps has provided 60,725 PPE and hygiene items. The mission also recently completed training-of-trainers sessions in Bamako to establish rapid response teams to improve the response to regional outbreaks of COVID-19.
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 taskforce. To date, we have trained 4,838 frontline staff, screened 31,910 patients for COVID-19 and reached 1,360,590 people with COVID-19 messaging. The Nigeria team, which continues to target more than 200,000 direct and almost 300,000 indirect beneficiaries, also has delivered 97,798 PPE items since the beginning of our response. Our WASH team has collaborated with other humanitarian partners to distribute 9,018 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. COVID-19 interventions will no longer be standalone programs in our Nigeria mission but rather incorporated into our broader WASH, nutrition and gender-based violence activities.
In Somalia, International Medical Corps is coordinating its response to COVID-19 through the Ministry of Health (MoH) at both the federal and regional government levels, and is a member of Somalia’s Inter-Agency Risk Communication and Community Engagement Taskforce. International Medical Corps supports 26 health facilities in four of Somalia’s 18 regions and continues to screen people for signs of the virus. Since we began our COVID-19 response in March 2020, we have screened 411,240 people for COVID-19, reached 697,617 people through COVID-19 awareness-raising activities and distributed 230,642 PPE and IPC items to frontline health workers. International Medical Corps supports the COVID-19 isolation center at Galkacyo South Hospital to help raise awareness and correct misinformation about the pandemic. We have also been operating toll-free phone lines at our field sites, enabling community residents to receive accurate messages and information about COVID-19. With the drastic rise in infections and deaths due to a new wave of COVID-19, we recruited additional nurses to support the screening of all beneficiaries attending International Medical Corps-supported health facilities and increased the number of community health workers (CHWs) to disseminate information and raise awareness about COVID-19. In August 2021, we screened 17,332 people for COVID-19, identified 878 suspected cases and referred those patients to the MoH isolation centre for testing.
International Medical Corps serves as co-lead of the COVID-19 Case Management and IPC Technical Working Group, which is part of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Group. We also helped develop the National Case Management Strategy, based on WHO and CDC protocols. We helped the Ministry of Health (MoH) develop its COVID-19 National Preparedness and Response Plan, and its COVID-19 National Vaccination Deployment Plan. International Medical Corps supports the MoH in managing the main COVID-19 treatment facility at Dr John Garang Infectious Disease Unit (IDU) in Juba. We established a Level 1 intensive-care unit (ICU) at the Dr John Garang IDU, the first ever ICU in the country accessible to the general public. Since April 2020, we have screened 1,180,741 people at health facilities and triage points in two former UN protection-of-civilian (PoC) sites, and in one current PoC, and have identified 1,511 suspected cases. We have provided facility-based medical, nutritional and psychosocial support to 250 admitted patients and 148 patients in home-based care. We have trained 1,778 healthcare workers on critical care, standard IPC precautions, safe patient transportation, psychological first aid (PFA), pharmaceutical care, rational dispensing practice, medical and PPE logistics, and COVID-19 vaccine preparedness. In addition, we have provided 3,010 healthcare staff with supportive supervision and mentoring and have reached 486,842 people with risk communication messages. Our team has also provided one-on-one psychosocial support to 1,741 people, including healthcare workers and other vulnerable individuals, and reached 75,544 people with COVID-19 messages, including coping strategies. We are supporting the MoH COVID-19 vaccine deployment plan—for example, our team is conducting COVID-19 vaccinations at Malakal Teaching Hospital and Malakal PoC, where we have vaccinated 515 people.
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. In August 2021, International Medical Corps screened 14,350 people for signs of the virus, and have screened 182,251 people since we began our COVID-19 response in March 2020. International Medical Corps continues daily COVID-19 messaging at targeted health facilities. Since March 2020, we have reached 1,354,206 people directly and almost 2 million people indirectly with COVID-19 messaging, and distributed 240,110 PPE and IPC items. We have provided training sessions on various topics related to COVID-19, including surveillance, IPC and case management to 1,908 people.
In August 2021, International Medical Corps began a new COVID-19 intervention in Zimbabwe focused on hygiene promotion and improving access to safe water. The program aims to train 61 healthcare workers in 17 health facilities; rehabilitate 26 water points; train water point committees and pump minders; and establish 80 community health clubs. Between March 2019 and April 2020, International Medical Corps implemented two COIVD-19 projects in Zimbabwe. In the first, we provided 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 implemented across three provinces, we targeted 17 health facilities, aiming to rehabilitate WASH facilities within COVID-19 isolation areas. Through our seven-year Amalima Project, completed in July 2020, our team and their partners 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 centres and 14 hospitals, which have screened 120,369 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 229,879 community members and reached 1.23 million people indirectly with messaging. Since July 2020, we have distributed 60,843 PPE and IPC items.