Doctors Jo Lusi and Bill Clemmer are among hundreds of frontline health workers bracing for COVID-19 to hit Goma, the largest city in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo—
a city of nearly 2 million people that just survived the nightmare of Ebola.
IMA World Health is working with long-time partner HEAL Africa and the DRC Ministry of Health to help set up a COVID-19 isolation and treatment facility. Workers are racing to turn a hotel next to HEAL Africa’s hospital into more bed space. Yet a major need remains for personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies to help treat possibly hundreds of patients.
Clemmer commented, “The challenge of finding basic hospital equipment and medical supplies sufficient for the needs in this city of well over a million persons is staggering...but we can accomplish that much more together than apart, and we are thankful for this historic and strong partnership between IMA and HEAL Africa.”
Clemmer and Lusi are working with Ministry of Health staff to determine a realistic number of patients they can accommodate, based on readiness and staffing as well as their stock of PPE. Logistical and bioengineering teams are planning for other needs, including oxygen supply (HEAL generates its own), electricity and water supply, beds and all the other supplies and equipment it may take to support people in need when the pandemic hits this developing area.
Using its well-established connections for procuring medicines and supplies in developing countries, IMA will support HEAL’s network of clinics and other local partners, many of which are faith-based and have connections that reach deep into communities where coronavirus might spread.
Air cargo reportedly remains operable at Goma’s international airport, which is heavily frequented by U.N. and other aircraft. That may not be the case for long, so the race is on to stock up and to prepare.
“Some of this will be ground-breaking territory,” Clemmer said. “We want to ensure we are ready to receive up to 100 to 150 patients per day...perhaps even more.”