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COVID-19 Preparation & Response Plan (Tanzania, Liberia, & Guinea)

Updated: May 19, 2020

note: this webpage will be updated weekly on Tuesdays


BACKGROUND

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that began in Wuhan, China and has spread across the world. On March 11th, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 pandemic. Outside of China, COVID-19 has primarily spread to countries in Europe and North America, with notably high levels of confirmed cases in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Iran, and the United States of America[i]. COVID-19 has been slow to spread into Sub-Saharan Africa. However, there are now a significant number of cases in Sub-Saharan Africa.[ii] COVID-19 has infected a significant number of people in various populations across the world, so we can assume it is likely to have similar transmission dynamics and health effects on populations in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Data so far has shown that the older you are, the more likely you are to experience intense symptoms or death from COVID-19.[iii] While the fatality ratio estimates vary and are constantly being updated as more data is being shared, it remains clear that age and other existing health conditions put a person at a higher risk of death if they become infected by the virus. Even if there is a correlation with age and COVID-19 infection, Sub-Saharan Africa will still experience negative economic and health capacity shocks as seen elsewhere and globally.


Most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have young populations on average. This is due to a number of factors such as income levels, the high disease burden on these populations, history, and society and culture in these regions that lead to high percentages of these populations to die early in life compared to other places in the world.


SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS

Tanzania and Liberia are low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Both have high burdens of disease. Due to being low-income countries, hospitals and healthcare centers tend to have low capacity to address current healthcare needs, especially in rural areas. Low capacity can refer to a few doctors, nurses, and other essential health staff as well as little and inadequate healthcare equipment.


If an additional disease such as COVID-19 were to establish itself in Sub-Saharan Africa, the low health system capacities would be even further diminished in their ability to address current diseases, as well as COVID-19. On top of the direct negative health outcomes of COVID-19, its presence would have a disturbing impact on a health system's ability to reduce the morbidity and mortality of diseases such as malaria, HIV, AIDS, and tuberculosis.[iv]


For reference, Tarime, a district in Tanzania with a population of roughly 350,000 people is estimated to need at least 6 medical doctors. According to their 2014-2020 Strategic Plan, they had 1 medical doctor in 2014. In 2020, we can estimate this number to be anywhere from 1-6 medical doctor(s).[v]

Talents Empowered considers its stakeholders to be in an increasingly more vulnerable position due to the disease COVID-19 that is caused by SARS-CoV-2. We will be taking steps to minimize this significant burden on these populations through the means described below. If and when needed, further steps will be taken.



PREPAREDNESS & RESPONSE PLAN UPDATES


One,

Establish a task force/advisory group of Public Health individuals and other professionally-relevant individuals to oversee and direct our COVID-19 activities.


3.30.2020 – A Public Health task force/advisory group has been established for COVID-19 related activities done by Talents Empowered. It consists of Frans, Simiyu, and Carlotta. Many of you know Frans; he is currently doing his MSc in International Public Health in Liverpool. Simiyu is a Medical Doctor from Tanzania with experience in Public Health. Carlotta has her MSc in Governance and Leadership for European Public Health, and she is currently residing in her home country Italy. This team will enable Talents Empowered to monitor SARS-CoV-2 in Tanzania and Liberia effectively and to act ethically and meaningfully.


Currently, the team is hopeful for these two countries as Liberia has remained at 3 cases for the last 10 days, and Tanzania has had 12-14 cases for the last 8 days. The situation in Liberia is particularly good as of now due to their earlier action, namely strict travel measures and social distancing implementation; their current preparedness for this infectious disease can likely be attributed to their recent experience with Ebola in 2015. However, the team will continue to monitor the situation closely and advise the nonprofit where it should best direct its resources in response to the pandemic.


04.07.2020 – Monitoring of the situation in Liberia, Guinea, and Tanzania has proved useful. The task force is staying up to date on the case numbers, governmental policies for addressing COVID-19, potential solutions, and research and commentary articles on solutions to potential economic and health impacts in these countries. The task force will continue to monitor the situation and advise the nonprofit. As of 04/06/2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia = 12, Tanzania = 24, and Guinea = 121.


04.14.2020 Liberia went into a country-wide lockdown on Friday (04/10/2020). As of 04/13/2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia = 51, Tanzania = 46, and Guinea = 250.


04.21.2020 - As of 04/20/2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia = 101, Tanzania = 254, and Guinea = 622.


4.28.2020 – As of 04/28/2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia = 141, Tanzania = 299, and Guinea = 1,163. It is important to note that these are confirmed cases. These numbers can be positively or negatively attributed to things such as testing capacity, policy, or influences on the transmission dynamics of the virus.


5.5.2020 – As of 05/04/2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia = 166, Tanzania = 480, and Guinea = 1,710.


5.12.2020 As of 05/12/2020, confirmed COVID-19 cases in Liberia = 212, Tanzania = 509, and Guinea = 2,298. Liberia still remains in lock-down, with a few restrictions lifted.


It is important to note that Tanzania has only conducted around 700 tests, and as of last week have suspended all testing activities for COVID-19.


5.19.2020 – As of 05/19/2020, confirmed cases in Liberia = 233, Tanzania = 509 (has not been updated since 04/29/2020), and Guinea = 2,796.


Liberia remains in lock-down with partial re-openings for places of worship (as of 05/15/2020). Tanzania has not updated COIVD-19 testing numbers since 04/29/2020 and is seeking to reopen schools soon.




Two,

Work with in-country contacts to disseminate evidence-based information from reputable sources such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).


3.30.2020 – An information sheet in English and Swahili was created and shared with in-country contacts as on Facebook and Instagram. We will continue to monitor the situation and disseminate evidence-based information from verified sources when appropriate and in coordination with national and global efforts.


04.07.2020 – This has gone well with effective dissemination to in-country contacts as well as to a broader audience via social media. These efforts will be continued.


04.14.2020 These efforts have slowed and will likely be coming to an end soon. This has a lot to do with anecdotal reports that a majority of these populations are well informed on prevention practices such as handwashing and social distancing due to the information spreading of governments, NGOs, and other organizations.


04.21.2020 - These efforts have completed. No further updates will be made unless this changes.




Three,

Establish an in-country emergency fund for scholars and volunteers in Tanzania and Liberia to be used only in the event of an economic downturn or job loss.


3.30.2020 – Separate in-country emergency funds were established in Tanzania and Liberia in preparation for substantial economic shocks that are arising as a result of COVID-19. These funds will be used as cash transfers for scholars, volunteers, and vulnerable populations to be able to financially support them if they become jobless or unable to work because of the direct or the indirect impacts of the current pandemic.


04.07.2020 – A portion of the emergency fund (cash transfers) will be distributed this week to scholars, volunteers, and vulnerable populations in response to the economic disruptions in Liberia and Tanzania. These funds will allow these individuals to prepare as well as make needed adjustments due to the changing social and economic structures nearly everywhere in the world is experiencing.


04.14.2020 – Emergency funds (cash transfers) were sent to scholars, volunteers, and other vulnerable populations last week. These were well-received. We will continue to monitor the situation to decide if another round of emergency funds (cash transfers) is needed or should be expanded to other groups.


04.21.2020 – We are preparing a second emergency fund (cash transfer) in preparation for any future economic disruption scholars, volunteers, and vulnerable populations who we work with in Liberia, Tanzania, and Guinea may face in the coming months.


04.28.2020 – We are continuing to monitor and receive feedback from scholars, volunteers, and other vulnerable groups in Tanzania and Liberia. The original emergency funds sent on the week commencing 04.07.2020 have been sufficient in supporting these individuals over the past three weeks. More updates to come.


05.05.2020 – Due to recent feedback from scholars, volunteers, and others in Tanzania & Liberia as well as an external analysis of the situation, Talents Empowered is distributing a second round of emergency funds (cash transfers) this week.


Liberia has been in lock-down for the last 25 days, and there have been a lot of concerns about purchasing power abilities due to significant decreases in income as well as a rise in food prices. In Tanzania, food prices have significantly increased due to decreased food supplies caused by a decrease in food imports, regional weather affecting harvests, and locust swarms devastating regional crop yields[vi]. The increase in food prices and decreases in income can be largely contributed to the global spread of SARS-CoV-2.


The spread of SARS-CoV-2 is a critical contributor to putting scholars, volunteers, and others we support in vulnerable positions; however, we have had the capacity to address this so far.


5.12.2020 – The second round of emergency funds (cash transfers) were well-received by scholars, volunteers, and others in Liberia and Tanzania. There are no further updates.


5.19.2020 – Scholars, volunteers, and others in Liberia and Tanzania have been grateful for the two rounds of emergency funds (cash transfers) sent to them. We will continue to monitor the situation from a health and economic perspective.




Four,

Open discussion with NGOs who operate in Tanzania, Liberia, and Guinea to discuss their preparedness plans and how we can best partner and work toward the shared goal of protecting vulnerable populations.


3.30.2020 – We have good connections with Hope Clinic, a medical outpost in Guinea that we have been partnering with for years. We are looking into their current capacity to address COVID-19.


In addition, we began discussing with CareForAfrica, an Australian non-governmental organization that does a lot of health-related work in Tarime district, Tanzania. We consider them an important partner in preparing for any spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Tarime. We will continue to maintain communication with them and, if needed, support their efforts. Currently, they are running their Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program in response to the potential spread of the coronavirus.


04.07.2020 – This week, we will be distributing funds to Care For Africa Foundation, an Australian nonprofit that does health-related activities in Tarime, Tanzania. These funds will support their ability to run their WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) program and other COVID-19 related activities. We will maintain communication with them and support their efforts.


In addition, we remain committed to distributing funds to Hope Clinic in Guinea on a quarterly basis. Quarterly funds were sent to Hope Clinic this past week. We are continuing to monitor the situation in Guinea and trying to open discussions to gauge their capacity to prepare and respond to COVID-19 in nearby communities.


In Liberia, we will be working with the Scholarship Coordinator, Pastor Dolo, to support his efforts in preparing his community. He is a leader in his community, and we find improving his capacity to be a critical step forward.


04.14.2020 Funds were sent to Care For Africa, a nonprofit that does health-related activities in Tarime, Tanzania. These funds will be used to support their WASH program and three women’s groups that are making soap.


Funds were well-received by Hope Clinic in Guinea to aid their initiatives.


After a discussion with Pastor Dolo (Scholarship Coordinator) who is in Liberia, we will continue to aid his efforts in supporting scholars and those in his community during these times. We will also be looking to support a health-related nonprofit in the area that is addressing COVID-19 these upcoming weeks.


04.21.2020 – We began working with Tarime District Hospital to support their preparedness efforts. We will be sending them funds to purchase a thermal scanner (non-contact way of reading someone’s temperature) and additional medical supplies. We will also be supporting their village health education and sensitization efforts. More updates on this partnership to come.


We will continue to support the women’s soap making group that Care For Africa is running in Tarime, Tanzania. Handwashing with soap is critical in minimizing the spread of SARS-CoV-2. More updates on this partnership to come.


We are also working with the community in Tarime to produce cloth masks that will be distributed free to individuals in Tarime city center. This initiative aims to build community capacity, create economic activity, and increase source control of any potential SARS-CoV-2 spread now and in the near future.


04.28.2020 – Medical supplies were purchased and sent to Tarime district hospital in two batches. These were well-received and greatly appreciated. We will continue to monitor the situation in Tarime and support the hospital where needed.


In addition, cloth face masks have been made by two individuals in the Tarime community that Talents Empowered has commissioned and distributed. We will continue these efforts as a means of minimizing any potential spread of the virus through controlling potential sources.


Additional funds were sent to Care For Africa to support the women’s soap making group and other activities they are facilitating in Tarime, Tanzania.


We are maintaining contact with Pastor Dolo in Liberia, as the country-wide lockdown was recently extended by two weeks.


05.05.2020 – We continue to monitor the situation in Tarime, Tanzania and we will support the District hospital and Care For Africa where needed. Cloth face masks continue to be distributed to the people in Tarime at no cost due to the efforts of Talents Empowered. As previously noted, this activity is a means of minimizing spread from potential sources (asymptomatic persons). It always creates an increased sense of psychological safety, which could positively or negatively contribute to certain outcomes depending on current, and unique contextual factors in Tarime.


5.12.2020 – We continue to monitor the situation in both Tanzania and Liberia. We will address capacity issues where needed so that community leaders and health-related organizations are able to continue to be equipped by issues arising from the spread of SARS-CoV-2.


In Tarime, Tanzania—an urban town of roughly 1,500 inhabitants, Talents Empowered has commissioned and is distributing 400 cloth masks made by two local seamstresses. Our goal is to produce enough cloth masks for the majority of the citizens in Tarime.


5.19.2020 – In Tarime, Tanzania, TE continues to commission and distribute cloth masks to the community. Our current goal is to provide cloth masks to the majority of citizens in Tarime.



References:

[i] Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering (2020) '2019 Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) Data Repository'. Available at: https://github.com/CSSEGISandData/COVID-19.

[ii] World Health Organization, W. H. O. (2020a) COVID-19: Situation update for the WHO African Region. Available at: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331487/SITREP_COVID-19_WHOAFRO_20200318-eng.pdf.

[iii] World Health Organization, W. H. O. (2020b) Report of the WHO-Chine Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Available at: https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/who-china-joint-mission-on-covid-19-final-report.pdf.

[iv] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, C. D. C. (2018) Global Health - Tanzania. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/countries/tanzania/default.htm.

[v] Prime Minister's Office - Regional Administration and Local Government (2015) Tarime District Council - Strategic Plan.

[vi] World Food Program (2020). WFP Chief Warns of Hunger Pandemic as COVID-19 Spreads. Available at: https://www.wfp.org/news/wfp-chief-warns-hunger-pandemic-covid-19-spreads-statement-un-security-council

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