As part of a webinar series organized by the Global Financing Facility (GFF) on May 20, 2020, the Ministry of Health in Liberia, Federal Ministry of Health in Ethiopia, Community Health Impact Coalition, and Last Mile Health shared insights on the role of community-based primary healthcare during COVID-19, and discussed the use of digital platforms and tools for training. The webinar was attended by more than 300 government and civil society participants across 36 GFF countries, and covered how community health workers—as part of primary health care teams—are vital for effective COVID-19 response and sustaining primary health care systems.
Olasford Wiah, Director of the Community Health Services Division at the Liberia Ministry of Health, and Dr. Raj Panjabi of Last Mile Health shared learnings from responding to the West African Ebola outbreak, including the need to build strong community-based health systems that can be surged during times of crisis. Following the Ebola outbreak, the country designed and scaled the National Community Health Assistant Program to deploy a paid community health worker in every rural community in the country. Now, these community health workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, as they work to prevent, detect, and respond to the virus.
Ethiopia presents another example of how to empower primary healthcare teams to build a durable health system. As the Director of Primary Health Care for the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, Temesgen Ayehu reflected on the use of technology to empower the community-based COVID-19 response. Currently, community health workers employed through the Health Extension Program are responding to COVID-19 at the community level through active case finding and referral, contact tracing, community education, coordination of community volunteers, and safely providing routine health services. They now have access to COVID-19 Ethiopia, a mobile health worker training and learning platform, which was designed with support from the Community Health Academy.
For countries looking for resources to inform their response, Madeleine Ballard shared the Community Health Impact Coalition’s recommendations for targeted actions that must be taken during the pandemic to protect health workers, interrupt transmission, maintain primary health care services, and shield the vulnerable. Magnus Conteh of the Community Health Academy shared the COVID-19 Digital Classroom, which rapidly provides high-quality and accurate information for communities and training material for community-based health workers responding to the pandemic globally.
To learn more:
- Video of the GFF webinar session can be found here
- Summary of the GFF webinar session can be found here
- The Government of Ethiopia’s COVID-19 learning application is available here
- The Government of Uganda’s COVID-19 learning application is available here
- Liberia’s Community Event-Based Surveillance (CEBS) Curriculum for COVID-19 can be found here
- GFF’s Guidance Note for Maintaining Essential Services here