Patrick Sikana, VillageReach Vice President
Listening, learning and adjusting — this has been our method of operation since the last time I provided you an update about our COVID-19 response. Our priorities have evolved and it has been a balance of internal capacity, imperative continuity and the need for the complementarity against the context of a complex and fluid pandemic. For this reason, we have to optimize as we go to make sure we remain relevant to the coronavirus response. However, there are four fundamental blocks that informed our prioritization model, and these will remain constant.
Our four areas of focus:
1. Provision of accurate information to address uncertainty and misinformation. Denial, myth, rumor, stigma and misinformation remain rife in some of the communities where we work. These combine in a vicious way to make people more susceptible to infection. We are collaborating with partners and governments to provide and strengthen sources of trusted information. In Malawi, we continue to support the Ministry of Health to strengthen the capacity of the national health hotline Chipatala cha pa Foni (Health Center by Phone) to reach more people 24/7. In Mozambique, our collaboration with VIAMO continues to upgrade the technical aspects of the Alo Vida hotline to improve functionality and response to a higher demand resulting from COVID-19. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we are collaborating with Praekelt, our technical partner, to launch HealthAlert.
2. Help governments maintain access to quality medicines and supplies at the last mile. Health authorities across the globe face gaps between supplies and the demands created (or made worse) by COVID-19. Ensuring that supplies continue to reach those who need them and health systems are prepared to distribute an eventual COVID-19 vaccine is critical to a successful response. In Malawi, we are supporting the Ministry of Health with timely distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to all district hospitals and health centers, while ensuring the proper functioning of supply chain systems in 16 of 28 districts in the country. In Mozambique, we are integrating COVID-19 supplies in routine distributions as well as supporting HIV, vaccines and essential medicine supply chains to health facilities in four provinces. In DRC, we are continuing to ensure vaccine supply chains run in five provinces.
3. Support testing logistics. The movement of samples from facilities to labs remains a daunting challenge in many remote settings. In Mozambique, we are working with the government and a number of partners to innovate and implement a ride-sharing sample transportation solution for scaling up COVID-19 testing.
4. Support health workers with the information, supplies and equipment they need to serve their communities. Every robust response requires that frontline workers are adequately empowered and protected to carry out their duties. In DRC, we are collaborating with Viamo to deliver Remote Training for Community Health Workers on COVID-19 response. In Liberia, we helped the government to develop a PPE inventory management tool that can be updated regularly as new stock and data to monitor stock levels. In addition, we are collaborating with the Community Health Impact Coalition, as part of the Direct Relief partnership, to provide supplies and support community health workers in up to 10 countries.
In the next update, I look forward to sharing some early outputs and possible lessons emerging from these interventions. In the meantime, you can read my first update where I reflect on Africa’s rapid ramp-up in its COVID-19 response.