BALTIMORE AND WASHINGTON — International NGOs Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health, building on their experience responding to Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are assisting local health networks in Africa to prepare for and respond to transmission of COVID-19, the coronavirus that originated in China in late 2019.
Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health are working in partnership with Africa Christian Health Associations Platform (ACHAP), a membership organization of 43 faith-based associations in 32 countries in Africa, to provide information on the virus, technical assistance and equipment and supplies to implement infection prevention and control in health facilities.
Sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak. “The impact of COVID-19 on Africa could be devastating,” said Allyson Bear, a public health specialist and vice president for Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health. “The health systems in many African countries are under-resourced and unprepared for a widespread outbreak and will have difficulty detecting its presence and mounting a response.”
IMA World Health, in particular, has significant experience in outbreak response and deep partnerships with faith-based health care networks across Africa. It mobilized responses to the last four Ebola outbreaks on the continent, including the current outbreak in Eastern DRC. There have been no new Ebola cases in DRC in the last two weeks, signaling that the outbreak may be at an end.
Applying lessons learned in the Ebola response, Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health will mount efforts to counter disinformation about COVID-19, which is already a major problem. In the recent Ebola outbreak, distrust between the population and the medical community hindered efforts at detection, contact tracing and treatment, and led to further spread of the disease. To combat misinformation and mistrust, health associations will be provided with informative messaging on the virus and what to do to prevent it that can be widely disseminated to the public on easily accessible communications and social media platforms, such as WhatsApp.
In addition, Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health will train health workers on how to protect themselves as they are treating suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases and will equip facilities with the supplies they need to apply proven infection prevention practices.
# # #
About Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health:
Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health have joined forces to increase our impact on breaking the cycle of poverty and promoting healthier families and communities. The two international humanitarian nonprofits are integrating IMA World Health's global health expertise and Lutheran World Relief’s work in rural economies and emergency response, creating a unified organization that will help millions more enjoy a healthier, more prosperous tomorrow.