With Kenya’s First Confirmed Case of COVID-19, Amref is Prepared to Take on the Disease

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March 13, 2020 — The novel coronavirus has now reached the African continent with confirmed cases of the disease, now known as COVID-19, in a number of countries, although most are imported cases. Due to major communication links between the African continent and China and Europe, it is now likely that the spread of COVID-19 across Africa is imminent. Kenya has confirmed its first case in a Kenyan citizen who recently returned from travel in the USA.

The threat posed to people in Africa is considerable taking into account the continent’s 1.2 billion people and its weak health systems that are already overburdened with ongoing disease outbreaks and other health issues. As Michael Yao, WHO‘s head of emergency operations in Africa, noted, because the continent’s health systems “are already overwhelmed by many ongoing disease outbreaks” prevention and early detection – trace, mobilise, detect, test, treat, isolate – are vital.

Amref Health Africa is working closely with African Ministries of Health, Africa CDC alongside WHO in preventive measures to curb the spread of the COVID- 19 and especially by strenthening frontline health workers like nurses and doctors. In Kenya for example, we have partnered with the Ministry of Health and Africa CDC to improve surveillance, early detection and track the spread of the disease,” says Dr. Githinji Gitahi, the Global Chief Executive Officer of Amref Health Africa.

Leveraging the innovative mobile technology – Leap, Amref and the Ministry of Health in Kenya are launching a two-month campaign to educate health workers on COVID-19. This will enable health care workers to educate communities on the virus and relevant prevention measures. Using this mobile phone training platform, health workers will also be trained to identify, isolate and refer suspected cases as well as maintain safety standards at points of entry or high-risk areas to prevent possible transmission.

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The digital content has been customized to fit the needs of target audiences which includes consideration of the health worker’s skill level, language preference and preferred channels (text or audio messages).

In Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, Amref is part of their respective national taskforces to assist the ministries of health prepare emergency responses to COVID-19. Further, in Tanzania, through our Community Disease Prevention program, we have been involved in developing a national pandemic influenza preparedness and response plan, which can be applied to controlling COVID-19 as well as other international health emergencies. We are also involved at the community level raising awareness on how to prevent the spread of the disease.

With our in depth knowledge of health services, our close involvement with communities, and our wide network throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Amref Health Africa is already:

  • Supporting national governments and institutes to organize preventive measures and mount responses, as needed;

  • Providing health workers with training on infection, prevention and control;

  • Disseminating educational materials to keep communities informed;

  • Providing regular updates to healthcare workers;

  • Advising and facilitating transport of specimens to national testing laboratories;

  • Advising on workplace preparedness

The World Health Organization (WHO), Africa CDC and partners are scaling up preparedness efforts for COVID-19 in the African region to implement the recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee.

Amref Health Africa has consistently supported Ministries of Health and WHO during outbreak interventions including facilitating the provision of critical healthcare to remote communities across Africa as evidenced by participation during roll out of control measures during the Ebola outbreaks in Uganda 2000 and 2012, and in Senegal and Guinea in 2014, the cholera outbreak in Kenya (2017) and the Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria (2018).

Amref has trained numerous healthcare providers in infection prevention and control. This includes providing guidelines on specimen collection, storage and transport for safe delivery of samples to reference laboratories for confirmation among other activities.