November 25, 2022
Universal Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women
As COVID-19 began spreading at the beginning of 2020, it became abundantly clear that many countries were ill-prepared for this global pandemic. Across Europe and North America many healthcare providers reported a lack of necessary medical equipment like hospital beds, ventilators and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In addition, lots of countries struggled to rapidly implement an Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) strategy to reduce the spread COVID-19. The consequences were devastating, with over 1.1 million people dying in the USA due to COVID.
Recognizing the devastation that COVID-19 could have on a country, Doctors of the World focused on developing programs that would help at-risk nations prepare for the pandemic. Our programs took place in Haiti, South Sudan and Ukraine where we worked closely with local health facilities, national and regional governments, as well as community organizations to help bolster their COVID-19 IPC approach, while maintaining essential health services.
The first objective in our COVID-19 programs was to ensure that the healthcare facilities were prepared for a COVID-19 outbreak in their region. The DotW team carried out training sessions to prepare healthcare staff and community health workers on COVID-19. These sessions focused on IPC strategies (quarantine, isolation, etc) as well as providing information on the COVID-19 virus including its etiology, transmission, symptoms, risk, diagnosis and treatment. Staff were also trained on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS), particularly within the context of COVID-19.
Besides training healthcare staff on COVID-19, Doctors of the World donated Infection, Prevention and Control (IPC) supplies like PPE as well as medicine and medical equipment to the various healthcare facilities it supported in Haiti, Ukraine and South Sudan.
Another key aspect of our COVID-19 response was raising community awareness by disseminating information about the virus to the public so that individuals were better equipped to recognize symptoms, prevent infection and seek out treatment. DotW prepared messages and presentations that were shared on the TV, radio, and across various social media platforms like Facebook. DotW had additionally partnered with local community leaders and organizations that could further amplify the message.
In Ukraine, Doctors of the World organized phone consultations where individuals could call and receive the necessary information about COVID-19, as well as launched a video competition among children on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The strain of COVID-19 further put at risk the local population’s access to other essential health services. DotW looked to bolster the healthcare facilities so that they may continue to provide care in several domains. In South Sudan and Haiti, DotW ensured the continuity of Sexual and Reproductive Health services including ante and poste-natal care, as well as treating cases of sexual violence and raising awareness of gender-based violence. These services were particularly important in the context of COVID-19, as the forced isolation has left many women and children trapped in violent households. Thus it was crucial to raise awareness in the community to recognize risks and provide support to victims.
MHPSS is another health sector that has been put under serious strain due to COVID-19. The stress of a pandemic, coupled with extended periods in isolation and financial strain can exacerbate negative mental health effects. In all of our COVID-19 responses, Doctors of the World has worked to ensure that individuals can receive consultations with trained psychologists to cope with their mental health issues. Healthcare staff were also trained in MHPSS, from teaching coping strategies for stress and providing referrals for patients to appropriate MHPSS clinics.