Created 03/26/2020 | Updated 04/06/2020
Living Goods is closely monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic. Our COVID-19 plans are focused on staff and CHW safety, business continuity, and determining how we can best support governments to respond—both through our existing programs and potentially through new efforts, especially on the technology front.
Our work in maternal, newborn and child health, family planning and immunization is more important than ever before. Community-based care is essential, particularly in highly constrained systems. We also know that other diseases such as malaria can easily spread while limited resources are laser-focused on COVID-19. During past outbreaks and other health crises, we have neglected existing illnesses and conditions, leading to a massive loss of life. We cannot allow this history to repeat.
We anticipate the disease burden to quickly escalate in the countries where we work. We are encouraged that our government partners have quickly put aggressive controls in place to slow the spread of the disease, and we expect these to rapidly ramp up. We are hoping for the best when it comes to the toll COVID-19 will take on African communities and health systems, but we are preparing for the worst.
What we’re doing:
- Staff and CHW safety and welfare: A month ago, we activated our Crisis Management Team and developed a comprehensive scenario-planning framework and a crisis communications plan. These were aligned with the recommendations of leading public health experts and Ministries of Health. While most staff attached to our main offices in the US, Kenya, and Uganda are working remotely, our field staff in both countries continue to report to work—maintaining as much social distance as possible. We will be rolling out remote supervision protocols very soon.
- Business Continuity: We have started to consider the medium- to longer-term implications for the pandemic on our operations both in terms what will likely slow down and stop, and what we will need to start or ramp up. We are assessing implications on our working practices, operations, funding, key performance indicators and advocacy priorities, and developing a plan that assumes the crisis lasts 6-9 months.
- Programmatic responses: We’re engaging closely with ministries and their emergency preparedness and response teams as we build the capacity of CHWs and our staff to protect themselves, families and communities against the risks of COVID-19. We have staff seconded to the ministries of health to help support them wherever we can be useful in every country we work in. We have already begun training CHWs on prevention, early detection, and reporting, and are working to sensitize communities and support setting up handwashing stations. In addition, we are working to develop an e-learning platform that can be leveraged by CHWs, supervisors and our teams. While the Governments of Kenya and Uganda are aligned that CHWs should support prevention efforts, we are working with them to determine the appropriate roles CHWs should continue to play in childhood disease detection and response. We are also trying to procure personal protective equipment and developing protocols that concurrently protect CHWs while ensuring they do not become vectors of transmission. Importantly, we are developing ‘no-touch protocols’ that we hope to roll out to CHWs in the very near term with the hope that they can continue to save lives by assessing and treating cases of malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia; supporting pregnant women and newborns; and educating families around COVID-19 prevention efforts and identifying potential cases. We are already using our SMS system to contact CHWs and households receiving support. With 10,000 CHWs in our network equipped with smartphones, we and our partner BRAC in Uganda, believe we can enable the delivery of substantive primary health services that minimize disease transmission risks between CHWs and community members.
The spirit of collaboration across the global health community in devising shared solutions to this crisis has been deeply inspiring and heartening. We are working closely with our colleagues at the Community Health Impact Coalition through regular virtual meetings and live collaboration in a resource-rich google doc found here. We have put out a draft joint position paper, which outlines our shared priorities around protecting health care workers, interrupting the virus, maintaining existing health care services in the face of this crisis and shielding the most vulnerable from socioeconomic shocks.
We fundamentally believe that effective, digitally-driven community-based primary health saves lives. It is essential for quelling this pandemic and future pandemics, and to building stronger more resilient health systems.
We will continue to keep you apprised as our plans take shape. We are proud and humbled to be part of this community. We are in this together.
Photo: This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
Priorities for the Global COVID-19 Response
COVID-19 disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable: sharp increases in caseloads will overwhelm health systems in countries already facing shortages of workers and supplies. With millions of lives at stake, decisive action must be taken now to blunt the impact of the pandemic in countries likely to be hit the hardest. Investment is needed at all levels of the health system and CHWs are poised to play a pivotal role in fighting the pandemic. Members of the Community Health Impact Coalition have come together to urgently outline the targeted actions needed now.