by Last Mile Health and VillageReach
Around the world, community health workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. As a critical link between health facilities and patients in rural and remote areas, community health workers are working to prevent, detect, and respond to COVID-19 while continuing to provide essential health services. Despite their vital role, community health workers are often not prioritized for personal protective equipment (PPE)—the masks, gloves, and gowns that protect against infection.
However, countries like Liberia understand that as first-line responders, community health workers are entitled to the same PPE as nurses, doctors, and other health providers. The Liberia Ministry of Health teamed up with Last Mile Health and VillageReach at the onset of the pandemic to develop a quantification process and tool to determine how much PPE was required to equip all health workers—including community health workers. This work is a continuation of our work with the Government of Liberia to ensure a consistent supply chain for community health workers, critical during crises and beyond.
Together, we supported Liberia’s Ministry of Health to procure and distribute the following supplies to community health workers, health facilities, and hospitals in 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties as of mid-October:
- 83,000 masks
- 1,980 respirators
- 180,000 gloves
- 15,000 gowns
- 1,700 pieces of eye protection
- 1,800 hand washing buckets
- 500 bottles of hand sanitizer
- 1,300 bottles of liquid soap
- 500 bottles of bleach
Now, over 3,000 community health workers in Liberia will receive a three month supply of PPE so they can keep safe and keep serving their communities.
Our collective efforts to quantify, procure, and distribute PPE has been fueled by partnership. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Africa, organizations supporting community health workers were concerned not only about the availability and cost of PPE, but also the impacts lockdowns were having on supply chains,” said Tapiwa Mukwashi, Director for Supply Chain at VillageReach. “With border closures and curfews disabling the fast flow of highly responsive supplies we knew we had to come together as a collective to ensure CHWs received PPE.”
This was made possible by the support of several partners who supported procurement or provided vital advice and expertise, including Airlink, Direct Relief, DHL, Logenix, and Virgin Unite. Funding for ongoing procurement of PPE is made possible by the Audacious Project, housed at TED, and other generous funding partners such as UBS Optimus Foundation and Preston-Werner Ventures. We also benefited from information sharing efforts led by the Community Health Impact Coalition and Global Logistic Cluster meetings, among others. Additional procurement was supported by the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa, a collaborative of 30 organizations working with Ministries of Health to equip up to one million community health workers with 450 million pieces of PPE in up to 24 countries.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we know that there’s more work ahead to strengthen the supply chain to ensure it can equip community health workers during the pandemic and beyond. We’re confident that by working together, we’ll achieve far more than any of us would alone.