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.
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. 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 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. Recently, we installed water storage infrastructure at the regional hospital serving the camp, which will improve patient care and provide critical water access during the pandemic.
In the coming months, we will rehabilitate one of the two health centres in Minawao camp, which will improve patient care for vulnerable refugees. To date, health teams have trained 60 health workers and 186 outreach volunteers in COVID-19 prevention, screened 8,988 patients for COVID-19 and reached 210,795 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 47,202 hygiene and PPE items to community health workers and frontline staff in the Far North, North and East regions, including 19,827 masks and 20,275 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 2020, 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
Due to disputed elections, the security situation in CAR recently deteriorated to the point that International Medical Corps had to pause many program activities in the country, including our COVID-19 response. Currently, all staff are safe and we are monitoring the situation closely. 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 is also 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 three treatment centres in hospital settings, distributed 109,090 pieces of PPE and reached 629,551 community members through COVID-19 awareness-raising activities, all through traditional, face-to-face methods. We have screened 117,153 patients for COVID-19, with 864 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 three 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 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.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
Like many countries around the world, the DRC has been hit with a second wave of COVID-19. Kongo Central is now the province with the highest number of confirmed cases, and the DRC government has reinforced a curfew and mandatory masks in public. Our DRC mission has trained 2,827 frontline staff and community health workers (CHWs) on COVID-19 case management, IPC, community-based surveillance and risk communication for behaviour change. To date, facilities that we support have screened 1,420,662 people for COVID-19, with 16,010 identified as suspected cases. The DRC mission has completed training on IPC for all staff members at facilities we support. So far, we have reached 508,434 community members through traditional means of communication, such as awareness-raising activities by CHWs, community-based organisations and community action groups. Additionally, we have reached more than 429,758 community members through remote measures, such as COVID-19 prevention messages disseminated through SMS and radio. The DRC mission has so far distributed 144,237 hygiene items and PPE, including 92,231 gloves, 9,872 gowns, 7,999 masks for healthcare workers, 3,676 masks for patients and 3,343 chlorine containers, 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. In addition, the DRC mission has developed a children’s cartoon book with COVID-19 prevention messages.
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 safely. Since we began our COVID-19 response in March, International Medical Corps-supported facilities screened 284,659 patients for the virus, and identified 810 suspected cases. The country team continues to participate in national COVID-19 coordination meetings with different groups, including the national government and other implementing partners. We have trained 2,896 frontline workers on COVID-19 modules. In addition, International Medical Corps has supported 76 government health facilities, distributed 63,236 PPE and IPC items and reached more than 50,000 people with COVID-19 awareness messaging through traditional, face-to-face methods. We also reached more than 1.5 million indirect beneficiaries 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, the country team has distributed 1,123,410 PPE items and trained 1,868 medical and paramedical staff members to respond to suspected cases of COVID-19. In June, 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 that has reached 32,081 people. 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, emphasizing coping with stress caused by the COVID-19 crisis. 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. Beneficiaries continue to have access to awareness and training sessions and psychological support activities while ensuring social distancing and use of facemasks and hand sanitiser. In addition to these physical activities, the remote case management system is available to all beneficiaries. The monitoring and evaluation team created an interactive COVID-19 online dashboard with automatic weekly updates of relevant data.
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 88 health facilities with COVID-19 activities and trained 164 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 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.
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 16,843 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 20,577 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 3,473 frontline staff, screened 7,821 patients for COVID-19 and reached 196,318 people with COVID-19 messaging. The Nigeria mission has also delivered 17,125 sanitation supplies, including hand sanitiser, 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 mobilisers on COVID-19 prevention, with 72 female participants. To date, our Nigeria team has reached 207,612 direct beneficiaries through our COVID-19 response.
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 981 staff members on IPC measures, how to recognize COVID-19 symptoms, how the virus spreads, how to use PPE, clinical case management, COVID-19 safe specimen collection, IPC/PPE awareness and referral system, nursing care of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in ICU, safe burial in the context of COVID-19, WASH in health facilities standards and MHPSS. 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 several 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. Since we began our COVID-19 response in March, we have screened 259,812 people for COVID-19 and reached 577,397 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 ran a four-week targeted ad campaign to support our COVID-related health messaging to local markets. The campaign began October 26, 2020 and ended November 27, 2020. The ads received 4,886,392 impressions and 227,813 video 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 InterAction Review of the COVID-19 response to assess progress and improvement opportunities. Our team is also contributing to the development of a transition plan to integrate the COVID-19 response into existing health services. 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. Since March 2020, we have screened 549,072 people in all three UN protection-of-civilian (PoC) sites: 307,362 in Juba, 175,992 in Malakal and 65,491 in Wau. An infectious disease unit (IDU) that we co-manage in Juba is the only 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, we have trained 861 healthcare workers in IPC and clinical management. Since April, we have provided on-the-job training and supervision to almost 666 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 313,409 people residing at the three PoC sites with risk communication messages. 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 (MOH) to care for COVID-19 patients in Western Bahr el Ghazal. We have begun assisting the MOH in efforts to manage COVID-19 at Malakal Teaching Hospital by providing technical oversight, necessary supplies and PPE for healthcare workers. None of the healthcare workers in our COVID-19 facilities have contracted COVID-19. 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. In January 2021, International Medical Corps screened 17,783 individuals for signs of the virus. Since we began our COVID-19 response in March 2020, 93,763 individuals have been screened. International Medical Corps has continued daily COVID-19 messaging at targeted health facilities. Since March 2020, we have reached more than 710,000 people directly and almost 2 million people indirectly with COVID-19 messaging, and distributed more than 88,000 PPE and IPC items. To support ongoing surveillance activities, we held training sessions for community health volunteers in all five states and provided training for 72 individuals on IPC in January, bringing the total number of people trained in this area to 1,594.
In response to increasing COVID-19 cases, Zimbabwean authorities implemented a second lockdown in January 2021. 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 centres and 14 hospitals, which have screened 57,727 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 164,345 community members and reached 1.22 million people. Since early July, we have distributed 60,843 PPE and IPC items, including masks for healthcare workers, soap, sanitiser and gloves.