Recognizing and Responding to COVID-19
The sudden appearance of COVID-19 and its rapid spread around the world has prompted a seismic shift in global health. Though the parameters of COVID-19 and its long-term impacts are yet to be known, HP+ has responded rapidly to requests to leverage the project’s decades of experience and global presence to support USAID’s pandemic response.
Ensuring a multisectoral response
Beyond supporting the newly launched Healthcare Federation of Liberia to coordinate an effective private sector response to the pandemic, HP+ is aiding COVID-19 response efforts in myriad ways across multiple levels. In Guatemala, the project is supporting the government to develop, resource, and manage a COVID-19 master response plan, including support for multisectoral efforts to coordinate and guide actors across sectors and levels. The project is also helping government leaders in Indonesia to use decentralized resources for their emergency response, with a goal of maintaining access to high-quality emergency antenatal care, facility delivery, and postnatal care services, while also reducing the risk of COVID-19 infection among pregnant women and neonates.
In West Africa, HP+ is supporting a multisectoral response across public and private spheres. In Burkina Faso, the project is working to strengthen the functioning of two Ministry of Health coordination and finance emergency response committees. HP+ is also providing financial support to strengthen the One Health electronic platform to ensure real-time data is used for effective policy implementation and decision-making. A recent HP+ analysis of Niger’s available equipment and supplies required to fight COVID-19 prompted a private foundation to donate handwashing supplies to 20 health facilities across the country, strengthening coordination between the public and private sectors in the country’s pandemic response.
Strengthening rapid response
Elsewhere, HP+ is supporting governments in their rapid response efforts and improve testing and contact tracing. In Honduras, HP+ is increasing lab capacity in the northern half of the country to decrease transport and testing times and assisting the Honduran government to create a Ventilator Task Force to optimize distribution and use of donated ventilators for the most severe cases. The project is also supporting the government’s rapid response team to more quickly identify, isolate, and test suspected cases and refer them to the formal health system.
In neighboring El Salvador, HP+ is helping to revise and update guidelines for infection prevention and control and supporting the Ministry of Health in its response plan; assessing technology capabilities within the surveillance unit to improve contact tracing; working with national authorities to update current procurement mechanisms and assess the supply chain; and supporting healthcare workers to identify staffing gaps and support stress relief approaches.
Supporting communities and vulnerable populations
HP+ is also supporting awareness raising activities and efforts to stem outbreaks among vulnerable populations. The project is helping Cambodia to monitor and evaluate a new cash transfer program to offer an expanded list of social assistance beneficiaries in light of the economic shock created by the pandemic. In Kenya, a network of local faith and community leaders, originally convened by HP+ to strengthen family planning, is now working with their district health department to reach communities on COVID-19 prevention and care-seeking efforts.
Engaging in global knowledge sharing
HP+’s technical expertise is already playing an important role in contributing to the health sector’s response to the pandemic, highlighting the need to take gender equity and impacts on the most vulnerable populations into consideration. Recently, HP+ modelers estimated the indirect impact of the pandemic on maternal and newborn health in India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan over the next 12 months—finding the potential for catastrophic impacts on maternal and newborn deaths and stillbirths—and provided recommendations for countries to mitigate these potential consequences.
In addition, HP+ gender experts discussed the importance of taking gender into consideration within the pandemic response, noting that women may be disproportionately affected by reduced access to family planning services and increased rates of gender-based violence, and offered suggestions on ways to reduce these impacts. Another recent HP+-authored blog sets out policy recommendations to ensure essential services for women and girls are maintained during this and future pandemic responses.
These contributions, along with leveraging lessons learned in combating the tuberculosis epidemic over the past century to address COVID-19 using digital solutions, are informing discussions about the pandemic response in dynamic and innovative ways.
Although COVID-19 is an evolving global health threat, HP+ continues to support countries to make rapid, strategic policy implementation decisions and shifts in service delivery to ensure continuity of essential health services, aiding efforts to combat the pandemic with the aim of creating long-lasting, sustainable health systems worldwide.