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Partner support for COVID-19 continues with $2 million government grant

Partners In Health physician Dr. Egide has a morning briefing with treatment centre health workers and cleaners regarding patient care and IPC. Dr. Egide led the COVID-19 task force in Rwanda’s Kirehe District, where he served as the Command Post Manager coordinating all COVID-19 related activities.

May 27, 2021

By Janice Biehn

The Government of Canada is granting PWRDF $2 million to continue supporting our partners in Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Mozambique as they keep their communities safe from COVID-19. The All Mothers and Children Count (AMCC) COVID-19 Extension program will run until March 31, 2022, with the 6:1 match ending June 30, 2021.

From 2016-2020, PWRDF’s AMCC program made a significant impact on the health of moms and babies. PWRDF donors supported the work of local partners in health care and nutrition training, teaching conservation agriculture, building wells to provide clean water, and empowering girls and women. The $20-million project included a 6:1 funding match from the Government of Canada.

As the AMCC program concluded in March 2020, the pandemic arrived. To preserve the gains that had been made, the government extended the program – and the 6:1 match – for a year. The goal was to enable our partners to respond to COVID-19 and continue improving maternal, newborn and child health. Donors gave almost $80,000 through the World of Gifts guide, and several other supporters have made gifts, totalling more than $300,000 at time of publication.

This new grant will cover the entire budget, so PWRDF will not be accepting donations towards this program after June 30, 2021 when the matching period ends. “This grant demonstrates the faith that Global Affairs Canada has in PWRDF and the important work of its partners,” says Will Postma, PWRDF Executive Director. “It is a direct result of our donors’ commitment to improving lives in some of the most vulnerable parts of East Africa.”

Donors wishing to support maternal, newborn and child health in East Africa are invited to support our Light for Every Birth project in Mozambique. Donors interested in having their gifts matched can donate to our equity in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which can be matched up to four times by the Government of Canada.

The past year has been challenging for our AMCC partners. Here are some highlights of how the program has supported their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Burundi (Village Health Works)

Village Health Works staff sanitize hospital rooms.

COVID-19 worsened in the second quarter of the project (July to September 2020) as confirmed cases tripled. In early February 2021, there were 1,723 cases formally reported, with 773 recovered cases and three deaths. Land borders remained closed.

Throughout the second quarter of the project, VHW focused on prevention. Patients and visitors to the facility had their temperatures checked and were provided with facemasks. Physical distancing is enforced. Two isolation tents had been set up at the start of the pandemic and they continue to be used: the first to screen patients for symptoms and the second for suspected COVID-19 cases. Thanks to the program, clinical teams had adequate PPE to stay safe. Hygiene measures are enforced on campus with additional handwashing stations and deeper disinfection in patient waiting areas and the clinic in general.

Nutrition supplementation is now distributed in the field rather than on campus and the number of activities on campus continues to be reduced. Patients with HIV, epilepsy, tuberculosis and mental health issues continue to receive medication at the clinic, but steps have been taken to reduce density. Patients and caretakers are reminded with COVID-19 prevention education on a daily basis.

Rwanda (Partners In Health)

Partners In Health lab technician Moses Muwanguzi processes COVID tests.

Despite strict measures to thwart the spread of COVID-19, there has been a significant increase in transmission all across the country. As of February 15, 2021, Rwanda recorded a total of 17,343 confirmed cases, 14,792 recovered, 2,312 active and 239 deaths. Public and private health facilities have been engaged to counteract the spread of cases throughout Rwanda.

Partners In Health Rwanda continues to play a major role in the nation’s response strategy. PIH Rwanda made more than 40 personnel available and provided training on COVID-19, infection prevention control materials; social support packages to vulnerable households and supported cancer care that had been interrupted for patients.

At the hospital level, PIH Rwanda made plans to improve oxygen therapy capacity, equip identified treatment centres and/or isolation spaces with IPC/PPE materials, ensure that the healthcare workforce is tested for COVID-19 at least once a month and provide temporary staff to substitute for permanent staff who tested positive. At the health centre level, PIH Rwanda supports testing of staff, has ordered patient monitoring devices such as thermometers and pulse oximetry and provided IPC/PPE materials. In the community, PPE was provided to CHWs. With PWRDF funding PIH Rwanda purchased rapid diagnosis testing kits resulting in 21,849 tests. Health facilities also received chlorine bleach, hand sanitizer, face masks and decontamination kits. The project also funded kits for outpatients to receive at their homes that included sanitary pads, face masks, rubbing alcohol, soap and food. 

Tanzania (Diocese of Masasi)

Funds enabled staff at the Diocese of Masasi to purchase infrared thermometers and other supplies

It’s hard to know the status of COVID-19 here because the government has not released any statistics since May 2020. Preventive measures that include awareness raising and education on physical distancing, hand washing with soap and use of sanitizers have continued in line with WHO and Ministry of Health guidelines, though the former president famously downplayed the danger of the virus. The new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, does not share his views.

Coaching and mentoring of health providers on COVID-19 this quarter focused on precautions, preventive measures, early recognition of symptoms and referral procedures as per WHO guidance and the general delivery of health services in the COVID-19 era. In addition, coaching and mentoring on WASH at health facilities with particular focus on washing of hands with soap before entering the health facility and dispensing health services. Funds were used to purchase and distribute educational banners, posters, flyers and stickers to 29 health facilities. Infrared thermometers, medical grade masks, gloves and other PPE was also purchased and distributed.

Mozambique (EHALE)

Patients in face masks wait to see the doctor at a health clinic in Mozambique.

Within the project operational area, there were only seven confirmed cases in Mossuril district and three cases concerning health professionals in Monapo district. More worryingly, 97 health professionals in the central hospital of Nampula recently contracted COVID-19. Health authorities might mitigate the risk by requisitioning health professionals working in NGOs.

In Nampula, nine women who are heads of maternal and child health, as well as 144 nurses, general nurses and service agents were mentored in COVID-19 protocols. Safe motherhood promoters serving 496 communities were trained in COVID-19 protocols and received aprons, safety goggles, hand-washing buckets with taps, sanitizer, protective boots, gloves, cleaning supplies and more. Safe motherhood promotes made a concerted effort to encourage community members to continue seeking maternal, newborn and child health services.