In response to COVID19 On Call Africa have been carrying out a diverse range of work at different levels of the health system to help the Ministry of Health and Zambian National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) to prepare for COVID19, and protect essential health workers. Below you can read about current campaign to procure PPE for health workers in Southern Province, and how this fits into our wider response.
Standing together with health workers in Zambia
The spread of COVID19 in Zambia is beginning to gather pace as community transmission takes hold. Initial efforts carried out by the MoH and ZNPHI maintained the numbers below 40 for a few weeks, with the majority of these cases being flown into the country. However, as of 24th April there are now 84 confirmed cases of COVID19 (almost double the number of previous weeks), and the spread of the confirmed cases is moving out from Lusaka and Kafue (Central Province). 8 of these cases were confirmed on 24th April. There has now been one confirmed case from Choma (Southern Province), and the rate of testing suggests that numbers could be much higher. The MoH and ZNPHI are moving quickly to put measures in place to prepare for the spread as they establish dedicated zones within health facilities for suspected and confirmed cases, but a severe shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is putting health workers at risk.
15 health workers (17% of cases) currently have the virus in Zambia, because they are working in high risk environments unprotected. PPE is now available within Zambia, but it is not making it to the places where it is most needed. Southern Province has been identified as a high risk area due its multiple border crossings and quarantine centres, but the hospitals and health facilities do not have access to PPE currently. We are seeking support to procure much needed PPE for the Southern Province Provincial Health Office so they can distribute this to the health workers that need this most. You can support our campaign by donating, or running your onw fundraising activities through our justgiving page here
National level response
Following the outbreak of COVID19 we made the difficult decision to cancel our clinics in rural communities due to the risk of spreading the virus from urban to rural areas that are ill equipped to respond to the pandemic. Instead we switched our focus to supporting the national level response through our team, and our dedicated network of volunteers. Over the last few weeks we have supported the following initiatives:
•Worked with partner to develop national protocols for CHWs, to help keep them safe and informed through COVID19, and to ensure the safe continuation of vital services
•Supported the development of a national contingency plan for the continuation of TB services
•Proposed tech solutions to improve surveillance, comms and health worker training – These have been picked up by other partners
•Established ourselves as key players in the community health covid response network – advising other partners on their response
•Worked with medic mobile on a proposal to introduce the community health toolkit to help put the CHW protocols into practice, provide CHWs with training and support, and to improve surveillance in remote rural communities. This is being adopted by MoH and funded by Medic Mobile.
Regional level response
In addition to supporting the national response to COVID19, we have also been working hard to support the response in Southern Province, which has been designated as a high risk area. We have supported this response in the following ways:
•Donated medicine to the Provincial health office
•Attend regular provincial and district (livingstone) Incident Management Command meetings to discuss regional response
•Provided vehicles and staff to facilitate Livingstone District Health Office spreading messages using a PA system, and through community engagement
•Trained local NGO staff on COVID19 and key messages to share to ensure they are aligned with national strategy
•Running a campaign to procure PPE for provincial health office
•Developed a joint proposal with Vero Power, OCA, DHO, RHCs and Virtual Doctors to take solar power, video conferencing, virtual training and virtual doctors to two of our health centres.