COVID-19: Response in Asia
International Medical Corps continues to implement programs in 12 of the country’s 34 provinces, with a focus on gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response. To mitigate the dangers of COVID-19 infection, we continue to distribute soap free of charge in communities that we serve, and stress the importance of handwashing in preventing the spread of the virus. We continue to offer a program aimed at discouraging attitudes and behaviours that contribute to gender-based violence (GBV) in Afghanistan. The program, available to an estimated 228,800 residents of remote Nangahar Province, includes targeted social and behaviour-change activities such as community dialogues and awareness sessions on GBV that we conduct within the limits of COVID-related guidelines. Our GBV mobile services remain operational in all field sites, as we collaborate and coordinate with external groups specializing in GBV issues during the pandemic. These groups include the GBV sub-cluster of the UN’s Afghanistan Protection Cluster and UN’s Gender in Humanitarian Action (GiHA) Working Group on COVID-19-related issues, to update mapping of GBV services. We are also participating in discussions to ensure that the interests of other vulnerable female groups (such as elderly and disabled women) are included in the wider response to GBV amid the challenges presented by COVID-19. We continue to provide phone-based case management and counselling to GBV survivors when appropriate and safe, and are using infection prevention and control (IPC) measures at all service centres. Arrangements to minimize the risk of infection include schooling far-smaller groups, maintaining social distancing during sessions and ensuring access to handwashing for all participants at all meeting points arranged by our mobile teams. In early July, the team launched a new hygiene promotion program in Balkh and Faryab provinces using 14 hygiene promoters who provide basic information on COVID-19, including its symptoms, how the virus is spread, who is most at risk and how its transmission can be slowed or prevented altogether. Messaging also stresses the importance of simple public health measures such as handwashing, staying home when ill and the need to cover one’s mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
International Medical Corps is at the forefront of the COVID-19 response in Pakistan. In July, we provided medical supplies to the Department of Health in the Khyber district for use in health facility isolation wards there, as part of our commitment to help the provincial Department of Health contribute to the COVID-19 national response plan. In early June, we edited three animated videos about COVID-19 from WHO and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Health Department for local consumption, dubbing them into the local Pashtu language and providing them to gender support groups and community volunteers for distribution through WhatsApp to local area residents. The videos will also target 10,000 individuals in seven Afghan refugee villages in three districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In late June, we organized a day-long training course for 20 Concern Worldwide staff members who are supporting Pakistan’s COVID-19 response. The training—carried out under a technical support memorandum of understanding we have with Concern Worldwide—will strengthen the technical capacity of medical and non-medical staff engaged in COVID-19 response in Pakistan. We expect to provide more trainings sessions under the agreement to about 120 staff members of Concern Worldwide and its sub-grantees working contain the spread of the virus in Pakistan.
International Medical Corps began work related to COVID-19 in early March, when our team first supported Manila Health Department efforts to protect the central city area’s 1.8 million people from the virus. Since March, our team has also provided a training-of-trainers course for health facility management staff on emerging infectious diseases, and installed triage tents where clinicians can screen for COVID-19 symptoms all who enter and exit Manila’s large Santa Ana Hospital—the city’s designated infectious disease center. To help protect healthcare workers, we have provided full sets of PPE as well as more than 500,000 separate PPE items, including surgical masks, gowns and goggles. We provided transportation for staff and patients at Santa Ana during the government-declared a stay-at-home order that was in force between March 15 and June 15. We also provided transportation support, as well as PPE, to the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) team of Manila Health Department, which used the assets to provide immunization for measles and other communicable diseases, as well as other MCH services at the community level. We provided PPE to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, following reports of COVID-19 infections among staff working there. To support government efforts to reduce transmission of COVID-19, we have started distributing washable masks, isopropyl alcohol and laundry soap, as well as information, education and communication material on how to prevent COVID-19, to Manila residents. We plan to expand this distribution to Quezon City and other locations in the next three weeks.