Dear Last Mile Health staff and partners,
I’m writing today to keep you informed of Last Mile Health’s current COVID-19 response, which has recently focused on scenario planning given the surge in cases across the African continent.
To underscore the severity of the current situation, let me share a couple of statistics with you. Liberia saw 460 new cases over the past week (June 13 – June 19), resulting in an emergency declaration with additional COVID restrictions. Uganda saw a surge of over 6,900 cases between May 30th and June 5th, leading to a national lockdown.
In addition, COVID-19 vaccination rates across Africa are painfully low. In the countries where we work, COVID-19 vaccination rates are as follows: Liberia 1.3%, Malawi 2.0%, Ethiopia 1.7%, Uganda 1.8%, and Sierra Leone 1.0%. Just this weekend, we learned Malawi has to cancel scheduled second doses due to lack of supply.
Supporting our government partners as they face the third wave of the pandemic continues to be our top priority. This includes a focus on increasing vaccination rates, with the understanding that vaccination is the best tool to protect our staff, health workers, and patients. We know that the pandemic will not end without increased vaccine availability, and that increasing vaccine distribution and overcoming hesitancy will require well-supported community and frontline health workers. These points are the central tenets of our programmatic response, as well as our advocacy locally and globally.
As the situation is dynamic and evolving quickly, we are planning for a range of different scenarios that will be based on the three primary objectives of our COVID-19 response:
- Ensuring the safety and well-being of our staff: This has involved facilitating the vaccination of our staff across Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, as health workers are in the first priority group for vaccinations. In Liberia, nearly 90% of our team members have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with second doses scheduled over the next one to two weeks.
- Protecting frontline and community health workers from infection: In Liberia this has involved vaccinating community and frontline health workers in all Last Mile Health managed counties, supporting the Ministry of Health to roll-out the vaccine to all health workers nationwide, and procuring PPE and oxygen. In Malawi, we continue to support PPE procurement and distribution. In the five countries where we operate, we are supporting health worker training in COVID-19 response.
- Maintaining primary health services, while also detecting COVID-19 outbreaks and supporting referral: In Liberia, we continue to see community health workers sustaining delivery of primary care to children under five, with only a modest decline in rates of facility-based delivery.
We look forward to sharing more information as our response evolves.
I continue to be so proud of the Last Mile Health team for ensuring the safety of our staff, supporting the continuity of health services in rural and remote communities, and demonstrating unfailing thoughtfulness and rigor while navigating this difficult time.
We are in this together.
CEO of Last Mile Health