As staff deployment to support countries becomes unfeasible due to travel restrictions and shutdowns implemented by several African countries to halt the spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa today launched the first online training for emergency responders to bolster efforts in tackling the virus. The two-hour session via video link drew 500 participants and focused on the clinical symptoms of the virus, how to triage COVID-19 cases, treat complications, manage severely ill patients, laboratory testing strategy as well as quarantine strategies.
“We used to provide such training workshops face to face in the countries but with the increasing travel restriction, we think that this will be the way forward to support the countries in the region,” said Ambrose Talisuna, WHO’s Emergency Preparedness Programme Manager. “We designed the training to be as interactive and as short as possible with just 10 minutes for the five presenters sitting in Brazzaville, Geneva, Nairobi, and Cape town, and 50 minutes to respond to the countries questions and to have a discussion about the realities in the field,” Dr Talisuna said. Participants in the inaugural online training session came from the ministries of health, private hospitals, medical schools as well as WHO country offices.
Africa has seen a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases since the continent’s first case was reported in mid-February. On 26 March, WHO in Africa launched a 10-point strategy calling for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to ease the deployment of staff and shipment of supplies as well as urging governments and the private sector to boost medical supplies and equipment. The Organization also announced plans to train more health emergency responders, including through online sessions.
Under the plan, WHO asked countries to expand the numbers of health workers deployed by re-purposing staff, increasing public health education to help communities stay safe and protect others, and identifying and equipping facilities to treat and isolate patients.