Emergency Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

by International Medical Corps
Emergency Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Jacqueline demonstrates good handwashing skills
Jacqueline demonstrates good handwashing skills

Six-year-old Jacqueline is experiencing lockdown at home in Butembo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I wish our school could be opened, but the government closed it, and I feel sad that I cannot go to school,” she says. “I miss my teacher and friends. When we were in school, I used to play different games with my friends. I often think of them. Before the coronavirus, the school gave us different knowledge each day, but now that has stopped. I hope it will start again soon.”

Thanks to International Medical Corps community health workers, Jacqueline was able to continue some of her learning at a safe space for children in Butembo. “Community health workers came to our child-friendly space and taught us that the coronavirus, what we call COVID-19, is a tiny organism that we cannot see with our eyes. They also told us it spreads when sick people cough and sneeze near others,” she explains. “People who are sick have symptoms like cough and fever, and have trouble breathing.”

The community health workers taught the children at the safe space how to protect themselves and others from catching COVID-19. “Some of the things we learned are to wash our hands with soap and water, to wave to people instead of shaking hands and to stay at least one meter away from people,” Jacqueline says.

But Jacqueline—who wants to become a doctor when she grows up—knows that there are challenges in following the community health workers’ advice. “We know we have to wash our hands, but water is very scarce here,” she says. “Therefore, it is very difficult for us to get enough water and soap to wash our hands and protect ourselves from the virus. On behalf of the children in the safe space, I would like to say, please bring us clean water and soap so we can keep clean and protect ourselves from this virus.”

Still, she’s grateful for the lessons she’s learned at the child-friendly space. “I thank the community health workers… at our safe space in Butembo because they also taught us how to protect others and ourselves.”

International Medical Corps is grateful for the support of GlobalGiving and its community of donors. Together, we are combatting the COVID-19 pandemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and around the world.

Our team conducting a COIVD-19-related training
Our team conducting a COIVD-19-related training
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Our team provides a COVID-19 training in Cameroon
Our team provides a COVID-19 training in Cameroon

Today, nearly two years since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, the world has surpassed more than 438 million cases and more than 5.9 million deaths attributed to the virus. On a worldwide level, cases of the Omicron variant appear to have peaked, with daily cases sitting about half what they were one month ago, but still twice as high as during any other peak. In addition, daily deaths also appear to have peaked. A mixture of widespread immunity—both vaccine-derived and natural—and the less severe nature of Omicron have led to considerably lower death rates than previous waves. However, due to the unprecedented contagiousness of the Omicron variant, the total daily deaths remain very high. Still, many governments worldwide are easing their COVID-19 restrictions in an attempt to learn to live with the virus.

Our teams around the world have been working tirelessly to bring healthcare and hope to the communities they serve–a job made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, but our accomplishments have been great.

We have screened more than 7.9 million people for COVID-19 at our global missions and have distributed more than 32.5 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control (IPC) items to supported health facilities.

We have trained more than 29,000 frontline healthcare professionals on COVID-19 prevention and control measures.

In South Sudan, our team created an eight-bed Level 1 ICU–the first ever in the country that is accessible to general public. According to Dr. Abdou, International Medical Corps’ Medical Director in South Sudan, “It had made a very big difference, and it has brought hope that South Sudan can start thinking about how to expand critical-care capacity. That is a big impact for the future of the health system in this country.”

This is just a small snapshot of the impact International Medical Corps’ teams have made around the world with the support of GlobalGiving and its community of donors. Thank you!

Our team maintains intensive care unit equipment
Our team maintains intensive care unit equipment
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A data collector surveys a community member
A data collector surveys a community member

Around the world, vaccines are one of the most studied, successful and cost-effective ways to improve health outcomes and save lives. However, vaccines work only if people recognize the need and value of immunization, and agree to be immunized.

Although approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, mass vaccination in Pakistan remains a challenge. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccine hesitancy is one of the 10 most severe threats to global health. The WHO also reported that there are three main reasons behind refusal or unwillingness to be vaccinated: inconvenience in accessing vaccines, complacency and lack of trust.

Pakistanis have traditionally shown high levels of vaccine hesitancy, making it difficult to eliminate the spread of highly infectious diseases.

“There is a need to enhance public trust and share evidence-based knowledge on vaccine efficacy and safety through major sources of COVID-19 information, such as television, social media and healthcare workers,” says Dr. Khalid, Associate Professor at Khyber Medical University in Peshawar. “The community can be convinced to get vaccinated if more published data on vaccine efficacy and safety is available.”

To identify and assess the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy in Pakistan, International Medical Corps worked with Pakistan’s Department of Health in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Khyber Medical University in Peshawar to survey nearly 200,000 people.

The survey revealed that the majority of the respondents received information about COVID-19 vaccines from television, social media and healthcare workers. They said that healthcare workers are the most trustworthy source of information because they believe doctors are knowledgeable and informed.

However, when several healthcare workers were interviewed, they expressed concern about not receiving up-to-date and accurate information about the virus.

“Lack of correct information among healthcare workers harms vaccination drives and leads to a higher refusal rate,” explains Dr. Bhisham, Program Director with International Medical Corps in Pakistan. “We need to raise awareness and train healthcare workers at every facility to share accurate information with their communities. Also, religious and community leaders must be involved, as they are important, trusted sources of information.”

Of those surveyed:

  • 70% believed there are other ways to prevent COVID-19 instead of the vaccine;
  • 43% were hesitant to receive the vaccine;
  • 28% of respondents were worried about experiencing vaccine side effects; and
  • 24% have not been vaccinated because they are waiting for new, more effective vaccines.

Based on the results, International Medical Corps has made a number of recommendations to the Provincial Health Ministry of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa aimed at reducing vaccine hesitancy such as ensuring healthcare workers have the most accurate information, implementing mobile vaccination campaigns, sharing images and videos of public figures getting vaccinated, using media to counter misinformation and ensuring media outlets engage in responsible reporting.

With support from GlobalGiving and its community of donors, our teams in Pakistan, and around the world, can continue to combat vaccine hesitancy and help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Khalid trains the data collectors
Dr. Khalid trains the data collectors
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A pharmacist takes stock of available medicines
A pharmacist takes stock of available medicines

With the global COVID-19 vaccine rollout underway, International Medical Corps is using our expertise in community health to mount effective vaccination campaigns in the countries where we work. With our decades of experience managing outbreaks of infectious disease—from helping to eradicate wild polio in Africa, to supporting cholera vaccinations in Haiti, to treating malaria in Yemen—we’ve seen how challenging it can be to deliver critical healthcare in remote areas and demanding environments. Here’s a look at what goes into effective last-mile delivery of vaccines and how International Medical Corps is supporting worldwide immunization efforts with staff, training, supplies and education.

The phrase, “last mile,” describes the last leg of any product’s journey to its destination. This final journey could be just a few miles long—from a local warehouse to your front door, for example—or it could extend thousands of miles across challenging terrain. The last mile looks different for every product; when it comes to medication, it can get especially complicated. Many medicines, including vaccines, must be kept at consistent cold temperatures, which is where the concept of “cold chain” comes in.

Cold chain involves the requirement for refrigeration to be constantly maintained from product creation to disbursement. If this chain is broken, and the product’s temperature rises above or falls below what it needs to stay viable, then the product’s shelf life shortens. In the worst cases, the product becomes unusable.

“The cold chain has to be uninterrupted from the day the vaccine is manufactured until it’s administered to a patient,” explains Nikola, Head of Global Procurement at International Medical Corps. “Imagine an invisible rope running all the way from the factory through ports and airports to warehouses, and finally to the patient. That rope cannot be cut anywhere.”

Fortunately, International Medical Corps has supported last-mile delivery of vaccines throughout our 37-year history. Our teams around the world are ready for this challenge.

With the support of GlobalGiving and its community of donors, International Medical Corps’ teams around the world continue to help COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Our team administers a COVID-19 vaccine in Jordan
Our team administers a COVID-19 vaccine in Jordan
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Female health workers raise COVID-19 awareness
Female health workers raise COVID-19 awareness

Rumors can be like viruses, spreading a disease of half-truths and lies, and damaging the health of communities. And during a pandemic, the power of rumors is magnified by the very real threat of disease and death.

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that misinformation was going to affect our COVID-19 response everywhere, fueling rumors about how and why the virus spreads, as well as promoting harmful remedies,” says Dr. Javed, Director of Emergency Response at International Medical Corps.

In Somalia, as part of our comprehensive, community-based COVID-19 response, International Medical Corps formed a task force of female health workers (FHWs) first to identify rumors and misinformation, and then to go into communities and share accurate information to dispel these rumors.

Rowly is one of 10 FHWs at Banow IDP Camp, one of the five IDP camps International Medical Corps supports as part of its COVID-19 response. According to Rowly, people in the camp were living in denial even as the virus spread at an alarming rate. Yet despite many people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, there was a stigma associated with getting tested.

Hawo, a mother of six children and a resident of Banow Camp, confesses that she was skeptical about the existence of COVID-19.

“I remember when the female health workers came to my house,” she says. “I asked them what they were up to, and they told me that they wanted to share information regarding COVID-19. At first, I did not believe them or the supposed threat of COVID-19. I appreciate that they were patient with me. With their help, I am now well-versed with COVID-19—including how it’s transmitted and how to prevent it. Now I can recognize the signs and symptoms. I really appreciate their efforts.”

In addition, our teams in Somalia initiated mass information campaigns—holding COVID-19 monthly community meetings, transmitting radio messages about COVID-19 prevention, and supporting call-in sessions, also on radio, hosted by a popular doctor who addressed questions and concerns from the public.

Since our COVID-19 risk communications program in Somalia launched in June 2020, nearly 850,000 people have received information about COVID-19. Currently, our teams of FHWs and other community health workers are promoting COVID-19 vaccines and addressing any associated rumors. Together with the Somalia Ministry of Health and community leaders, we are working to ensure that government-run vaccination campaigns are as effective as possible.

With support from GlobalGiving and its community of donors, our teams in Somalia and around the world continue to combat misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines hoping to bring an end to this global pandemic. 

Hawo speaks with our team member about COVID-19
Hawo speaks with our team member about COVID-19
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International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Kimberly Laney
Los Angeles, CA United States
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