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Crisis Info #04: What’s new, at a glance

MSF Activities 

Keeping our programmes running:

A key priority for MSF is to keep our regular medical programmes running for the extremely vulnerable communities we are supporting around the world. In any given day we are treating hundreds of thousands of patients for a variety of ailments. We need to ensure we can continue to provide adequate and life-saving medical care in our ongoing projects, and that there we have adequate infection prevention control in the health structures where we work (see below for more details).

Sustaining our projects faces some challenges because we are impacted by the current travel restrictions, which limits our ability to move staff between countries. There is also global pressure on the production of some medical supplies, in particular specialised personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. Our projects are still able to continue medical activities, but ascertaining future supplies of certain key items, such as surgical masks, N-95 masks and gowns, is of concern. 

COVID-19 preparation in our programmes:

Protecting healthcare workers and patients is essential, so our medical teams are also preparing for potential cases of COVID-19 in our projects. In places where there is a higher chance of cases, this means ensuring adequate infection control measures are in place, setting up screening at triage, isolation areas, and health education. We must be able to receive COVID-19 patients and make sure that no one is consequently infected in our structures, patients nor staff.

In most countries where we have projects, MSF is coordinating with the WHO and the Ministries of Health to see how MSF could help in prevention and in case of a high load of COVID-19 patients.

This can include pragmatic implementation of measures dealing with health promotion, infection prevention control, rational use of emergency equipment and triage in order to help prevent possible hospital overloads.

COVID-19 response:

Given the size of this pandemic, MSF’s ability to respond on the scale required will be limited. Whether we’ll be able to make similar offers to other countries will depend on the nature of the outbreak but also on our available resources.

South Africa 

In South Africa, the National Department of Health (NDoH) requested our teams to list additional potential support interventions and this list was submitted with possible support interventions including the development of Health Promotion (HP) / Information Education and Counselling (IEC) materials to address current gaps, especially around TB/HIV, and HP materials in translation. There is a national and global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is affecting the Department of Health (DoH) as well. 

Ongoing support activities include:

  • contact tracing,
  • support to the COVID-19 hotline in Western Cape, and
  • health promotion activities in multiple locations.

Italy

In Italy, which is now the second-most affected country (after China), MSF is currently supporting three hospitals in the first epicentre of the outbreak with infection control, as well as patient care. Outside the hospitals, we are starting activities to support family doctors and healthcare workers assisting people under isolation at home, and the staff of a nursing home for the elderly where cases have been detected.

Greece

MSF has prepared an emergency plan in case the refugee camp of Moria should the epidemic spread on the island

Belgium

MSF is supporting organisations that work with vulnerable groups such as homeless people and undocumented migrants, with triage and infection prevention and control (IPC) measures. Support to hospitals in case they get overwhelmed is being set up, as is IPC and medical support to closed settings such as homes for the elderly.

France

MFS is setting up activities to help detect and manage COVID-19 cases among the most vulnerable populations in Paris and the surrounding region. MSF teams are currently working out the details of their activities with partner medico-social associations and the Ile-de-France Regional Health Agency. They are to include mobile consultations and screening to be able to reach out to the most vulnerable, and support with diagnosis, isolation and case management in both existing and prospective shelters.

Spain

MSF is advising the MOH on developing models to expand the capacity of hospitals as well as identifying venues where hospitals can be set-up but there is no direct case management at this stage due to lack of PPE. We are also participating in the MOH crisis communication to advise on strategies based on our expertise in managing epidemics

Hong Kong

MSF has conducted more than 20 face-to-face health promotion sessions with vulnerable groups. In addition, the team has also started providing "coping with stress and anxiety" workshops to the same target groups to address their mental health needs. A number of Mythbusters videos on COVID-19 related topics have been produced, as well as a video providing tips to address stress and anxiety during this pandemic.

Syria

MSF is preparing for COVID-19 patient care in areas where we work as local health authorities are hardly functioning in this part of the country due to the conflict. 

Libya

We have delivered trainings on infection control & case management to nurses & doctors in hospitals in Tripoli.

Visit the South African National Department of Health’s online resource and news portal for more information regarding COVID-19: www.sacoronavirus.co.za