26 March 2020

It is day one of the national shutdown in South Africa and while many South Africans do their part in trying to curb the spread of COVID-19, there are medical staff and other essential services providers who are at the frontlines also doing their bit.

MSF operations in South Africa activities snapshot

Health Promotion and Contact Tracing 

MSF has been supporting the Department of Health in the COVID-19 response by printing Health Promotion tools for distribution; conducting health promotion on local radio; translation of materials into missing languages (mostly for migrants); creating HIV/COVID-19 and TB/COVID-19 tools; printing hygiene stickers for public transport; branding taxis with hygiene messages; and providing handwashing stations.

MSF 's coronavirus response, Khayelitsha, South Africa, Western Cape, COVID-19
Khayelitsha, Western Cape, South Africa. Our team, in collaboration with the provincial Department of Health, conducted contact and general screening in the community with the addition of conducting outreach testing (swabs for PCR lab-based testing). Photo: Sean Christie/MSF


The teams are assisting with or advocating for the decanting of clinics. MSF is also advocating for the provision of six months supply of ARVs (at the moment, the Department of Health are giving a supply of four months) and home delivery, 12 months scripting instead of 6 months giving four months treatment to PrEP patients; Homecare for DRTB patients (where possible). There are no new enrollments in our studies; The teams are Assisting/assessing clinics in respect of triage or screening. The main barrier we have is getting thermometres as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

The MSF teams have been assisting with triage/screening outside some clinics.

Updates from the different areas where MSF is responding 

In Rustenburg, our team has been providing support to the Department of Health on contact tracing (three nurses from Rustenburg are supporting contact training efforts in Gauteng Province, coordinated by MSF Tshwane); screening; community health promotion, facility risk assessment and the training of health care workers and community members.

MSF-supported clinic will stay open throughout lockdown in Tshwane, and negotiations with the provincial government to keep HUB open continue. Not yet clear whether City shelters will remain open, likewise City Food Bank. Tshwane team supporting contact tracing in Gauteng.

In Eshowe, MSF is establishing a tent for screening adjacent Eshowe Hospital, including the installation of washing hands stations and moveable toilets. Help desks in high volume clinics go live 24 March, and on 25 March hand washing points will be established in the town centre, in preparation for the welfare grant payday next week.

MSF-supported Luyanda sites (healthcare hubs in high-traffic rural locations) will function as pick up points for ART. In KwaZulu-Natal Province community health worker cadre told to stay home –this is being taken up with the Department of Health at the national level. MSF’s CHW partner, SHINE, will remain operational.

In Khayelitsha, our team will conduct triage trainings, and support screening activities outside the facilities.