June 16, 2020

Adapting Global Health Programs Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Photos from left to right: Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project (BIMEP), GSF/WSSCC, and Impact Malaria (IM)

Despite COVID-19’s petrification of life and global health programs, some undaunted programs press through these uncertain times to help others and complete their objectives.

Global Sanitation Fund (GSF)/Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC)
Handwashing, an important action to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, has been an essential part of programs funded by GSF/WSSCC in Benin and Madagascar. Taking advantage of the population’s increased motivations to adopt behaviors that interrupt the spread of the virus, the programs have redoubled their efforts to promote handwashing and other practices that reduce virus transmission alongside the program’s normal sanitation and hygiene promotion activities.

In Madagascar, MCDI’s GSF-funded program, FAA, has integrated itself into national and subnational anti-COVID-19 platforms to raise awareness and take action to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. Our teams are providing mass media messaging, posters, and hand-washing stations for schools, health centers and other public places while also training community leaders to fight the spread of COVID-19 in their communities. At the same time, they are anchoring community relays and regrouping stakeholders at Fokontany and communal level, and strengthening the implementation of community-led total sanitation (CLTS) in communities as well as health facilities and schools. So far, teams have covered about 400 health facilities and added 25 new communes to its original 365-commune objective.

In Benin, the GSF/WSSCC-funded program, PAPHyR, included anti-COVID-19 messaging and activities in preparing local implementing agents in Benin for its round 4 activities, which started in May. One agency in particular – the Association of Basic Promoters of Hygiene and Sanitation (APHA) – is extremely busy raising awareness across the country about COVID-19 prevention techniques. As a result, municipalities across the region augmented their public health resources and joined forces with APHA to curb the spread. We followed APHA’s crusade on our social media and you can follow them as well on our Twitter and LinkedIn.

Guinea StopPalu+
Pandemics like COVID-19 pose additional threats to regions as national governments divert time and resources from other life-saving initiatives to combat the emerging danger. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, MCDI teams are busy conducting malaria diagnostic trainings (MDRTs). So far, our treams completed three refresher trainings in the Conakry, Kindia, Labe, and Boke regions, retraining about 50 lab technicians. Additionally, teams conducted 2 rounds of OTSS in PMI areas.

Impact Malaria (IM)
With PMI guidance and support, activities under the Impact Malaria projects were not so adversely affected by the COVID-19’s pandemic. With new funds from PMI to for supporting the COVID-19 response in DRC, teams plan to add more OTSS+ rounds for all 109 health facilities and incorporate Impact Malaria’s new COVID-19 trainings, supervision checklist among other support. Additionally, all other planned activities in the 11 countries are ongoing following strict observance of WHO guidance on PPEs and social distancing.

Bioko Island Malaria Elimination Project (BIMEP)
Equatorial Guinea is located in one of the most vulnerable regions to COVID-19 in the world, yet the BIMEP continues hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in the fight against malaria on Bioko Island, which includes the capitol Malabo. The BIMEP continues the fight against malaria with indoor residual spraying (IRS), safety material distribution, mosquito breeding control, and anti-malarial services. IRS has been underway since mid-February, targeting about half of Bioko’s households to achieve universal coverage in communities with populations at highest risk malaria infection. Complementing IRS are 60,000 LLINs distributed to communities most in need of this commodity, exhaustive campaigns to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats to reduce vector mosquito densities, and anti-malarial treatments as well as diagnostics to vulnerable populations. These continued efforts face a substantial challenge in the context of the pandemic, and expose the team members to great risks to their health.

We thank and honor those courageous souls dedicating their time and safety to save lives during this time. Pandemics are hell, and enduring it makes them all heroes.

Matthew S. Lynch is the Assistant Communications Officer at Medical Care Development International (MCDI) Maryland, USA, office.

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