Newsroom & Blog

Aug 24, 2020   |   Blog Post

The Urgent Call to Protect Frontline Health Workers

A health care worker in full PPE. Credit: Last Mile Health

By Emily Bancroft


Being responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic for VillageReach has meant engaging in radical collaborations and responding to the present while designing for the future. We have been working from a set of principles over the last seven months, and one of the outcomes is a powerful initiative – the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa (the Fund): a personal protective equipment (PPE) initiative for community health workers (CHWs).

Responding quickly to protect frontline health workers

When COVID-19 hit, members of the Community Health Impact Coalition (CHIC) knew that CHWs could play a vital role in the response. I still look back and think how incredible it was to be part of a team of 30 people across 12 time zones who over 48 hours developed the Action Plan for Global COVID-19 Response – a blueprint for how to protect, deploy and support community health workers to flatten the curve and maintain essential services in partnership with governments. One of the first recommendations was ensuring that CHWs have the PPE they need to keep safe and keep serving their communities.

With more demand than supply of PPE, the urgency of taking action was clear: we had to kick-off a large-scale effort to secure high volumes of PPE to protect CHWs. To do this, VillageReach along with Community Health Acceleration Partnership, Pandemic Action Network, Direct Relief, and CHIC started the Fund. The initiative is a radical collaboration between the governments of 24 African countries and 30 organizations to achieve an audacious goal: procure and distribute PPE to one million CHWs. It officially launched just two weeks ago, and was featured on Devex.

Taking action to protect one million CHWs

Research found that up to $100M is needed to provide 450 million pieces of PPE supplies (surgical masks, gloves, face shields, reusable gowns and disposable biohazard bags) to protect CHWs who will serve over 400 million people in Africa during a one-year period. With $12.5M raised to date, the first shipments of equipment are en route to 12 African countries (including VillageReach core and partner countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia).

An undertaking of this magnitude requires extraordinary coordination. Governments are quantifying PPE supply needs, and designing distribution plans to get shipments into their countries and from the national warehouse to the last mile where CHWs work.

To support this massive effort of getting products to people, VillageReach has designated two of its supply chain experts to work hand-in-hand with Ministries of Health (MoHs) and their partners in this global effort, while our in-country teams are also supporting MoHs with last mile distribution in our core and partner countries.

Keeping CHWs safe to serve their communities

CHWs are often the only connection communities have to health services in Africa, and so we are advocating that they need to be equipped, trained, compensated, protected and supported as part of a well-functioning health system. This will not only help to keep the pandemic in check, but also ensure routine health care delivery both during the pandemic and beyond.

Support CHWs by using your social media channels to raise awareness of their vital role (using this social media kit) or by giving a financial gift to the Fund. One hundred percent of all gifts go directly to the purchase and transport of supplies through our partner, Direct Relief.

Thank you for using your voices to help us protect community health workers.

In solidarity,

Emily Bancroft

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