As part of our global COVID-19 response, we are partnering with the Uganda Ministry of Health to train community and frontline health workers to safely respond to the pandemic and provide home-based care.
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda, the surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) by health workers has been overwhelming, particularly for those working in underserved rural communities. In June 2021, during the country’s deep descent into the second COVID-19 wave, we identified procurement of PPE for community and frontline health workers as a critical area of support. Responding to the President’s call for additional investment in rural communities, we partnered with the Uganda Ministry of Health to distribute an estimated 482,000 pieces of reusable and disposable PPE and 11,500 pieces of health promotion materials to community and frontline health workers in Lira and Bushenyi districts. This resulted in over 3,000 community and frontline health workers receiving PPE across 66 community-based health facilities. In addition, we were able to quickly disseminate information to community health workers on COVID-19 standard operating procedures, use of PPE, home-based care guidelines, disease surveillance and reporting, and digital health tools.
Preceding the distribution, we consulted with the Ministry of Health’s community health department and District Health Officers to determine the amount of PPE required for community and frontline health workers. The team travelled with Ministry of Health colleagues to both Lira and Bushenyi districts to deliver PPE and resources. In Lira district, the launch was attended by the Honorable Minister of Health Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the Director of Clinical Services Dr. Charles Olaro, as well as the Commissioner, Community Health Services at Uganda Ministry of Health Dr. George Upenthyo Duggum. While the initial focus for the PPE campaign was the rural communities, we expanded our activities to include frontline workers at the district and sub county levels due to the critical PPE shortages at all levels of the health system.
Minister of Health Jane Ruth Aceng said, “My appreciation goes to Last Mile Health for this token of support, for choosing to come to Lira city and district. My prayer is that you don’t stay for only 2 years and you stay for more than 15 years because we still need you to implement community health activities.’’
Prior to the PPE distribution campaign, community health workers did not have access to adequate PPE or standard operating procedures on staying safe during service delivery. Therefore, community health workers were hesitant to serve their communities for fear of spreading or contracting COVID-19. Now, over 3,000 community and frontline health workers across 66 community-based health facilities have access to personal protective equipment and up to date information to provide home-based care and infection surveillance. The increased knowledge on disease surveillance will improve the quality of reporting on COVID-19, as community and frontline health workers continue to feed information into district and national data collection systems. At the health facility level, we have contributed to the continuity of health services by increasing protection for health workers so that they are able to carry out their work.
Looking forward, we will plan to procure and distribute additional PPE in three months when the current stock runs out. Our partners at the Ministry of Health have also asked us to provide additional resources on home-based care, and continue supporting the fight to provide more access to the COVID-19 vaccine in rural communities.