Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog
04.28 2020

Keeping pace to stay ahead of COVID-19

When I last reached out to all of you, I felt like we were in the middle of a sprint. A sprint to mitigate the impact that COVID-19 could have on the people and the health systems in the communities where we work across sub-Saharan Africa. To make sure our staff are safe and healthy in locations where they could stay for the foreseeable futures as borders closed. To ensure we can financially support the work that we have committed to as well as the new demands and needs. To figure out what working from home looks like for a global team where much of our work is done moving through communities, collaboratively in meetings and working groups, and by moving vaccines and essential medicines to health centers across the country. In this last month, business as usual has changed dramatically but our commitment to make sure health service delivery reaches everyone has not.

In a time of crisis, coordination is one of the biggest challenges. Our relationships with governments in the places where we work allows us to focus our efforts and put our resources where they are most needed.

I am so proud of what we have been able to do so far.

Prevent the Spread

Our first priority was around prevention, where we are using the platforms and partnerships we have developed to get accurate information out rapidly to communities and health workers. Building off the Health Center by Phone platform, we are implementing rapid-response communications solutions in partnership with the Ministries of Health, Communications Commissions, Viamo, and Praekelt.org in all three of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi and Mozambique. In partnership with Focusing Philanthropy, we have launched a matching campaign to support this critical work to provide the information that both communities and health workers need to prevent and respond to COVID-19.

Protect Health Workers

We have seen across the globe that COVID-19 disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable. That is why we have joined forces with the Community Health Impact Coalition to quickly develop and implement an action plan for ensuring that Community Health Workers (CHW) are prepared and equipped as part of the response.  The first step in this plan?  Make sure that all health workers – including community health workers – have appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe on the job.

In Liberia, we helped create an easy to use quantification tool for the PPE needed for health workers at all levels, including community health workers and community health volunteers.  In Malawi, as the supply chain lead for USAID’s Organized Network for Everyone’s Health (ONSE) program, we helped the Ministry of Health and Population distribute PPE to every district – taking a 10-day distribution and doing it in 3 days.

Maintain Essential Services

To avoid a secondary crisis, VillageReach remains committed to maintaining essential primary health care services during this critical time.  This means that vaccines need to reach children, essential medicines need to be in place, and we need to be more creative than ever about how to do this. In the month of March, we supported the distribution of vaccines and health commodities to more than 300 health facilities in hard-to-reach areas in Mozambique and DRC.

Over the past few weeks, it has become clear that we need to adjust our pace. Today, we have all become marathon runners, using the grit, resilience and focus that has served us these past six weeks to shift into a longer-term sustained response.  We will continue to adjust, but we will not stop running.

Thank you for being with us as we keep the pace.

In solidarity,

Emily Bancroft

For more information, visit the COVID-19 response page here.

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