The Covid-19 pandemic has kept the entire human race on edge for months. People already affected by hunger and poverty are often particularly hard hit. VSF-Suisse therefore supports the populations in the project countries with various activities in their fight against the virus.

With hygiene and information against the virus

VSF-Suisse is present in Mali and Togo in West Africa and in Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Somaliland, and South Sudan in East Africa. The projects help vulnerable populations build up sustainable livelihoods. Since some regions of these countries lack the financial means to combat Covid-19 effectively, VSF-Suisse is supporting them in numerous ways. In Mali and Togo, for example, the activities focus on providing additional hygiene products and raising awareness among the population. Our work in East Africa, as the example of Ethiopia will show below, also includes targeted aid for individual health facilities. The overarching goal in all countries is to provide knowledge and materials so that people can overcome the crisis and secure their livelihoods.

How Covid-19 threatens nomadic communities in Ethiopia

The first case of Covid-19 in Ethiopia was reported in March 2020 and by October 14, 2020 the total number of Covid-19 cases reached 85,718, with 1,305 deaths recorded. Nomadic peoples, such as the Borana people in the zone of the same name in southern Ethiopia, are particularly at risk. The lack of access to health services and hygiene facilities, as well as the proximity to the Kenyan border and the associated cross-border movements increase the risk of infection. A lack of information and insufficient sensitization of the population further complicate the situation. In the fight against the virus, governments have introduced various precautionary measures at the national, regional and zonal levels, such as closing markets and restricting travel. This in turn has had a negative impact on livestock holders, threatening their livelihoods and food security. The financial means to purchase personal protective equipment and hygiene items (such as masks, disinfectants and soap) are thus even less available. In these areas, support from organizations such as VSF-Suisse is essential. Although the governments of the zones in question have opened local health facilities in response to the pandemic, there is still a lack of information, staff, and equipment.

Together we will get through this pandemic

With the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), VSF-Suisse has launched the COVID-19 Prevention and Control Rapid Responses Project. The main objective of this project is to support local governments in prevention and crisis management, thereby protecting the most vulnerable population groups. VSF-Suisse focuses on strengthening the capacity of health care institutions to carry out prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Covid-19 cases on the one hand, and on raising public awareness to contain the virus on the other. Concrete examples of actions to strengthen health facilities include the construction of waste disposal facilities for contaminated waste or the installation of water tankers to ensure the availability of clean water. In the area of sensitization of the population, we conduct training and promote social mobilization with the help of posters and T-shirts. Last but not least, we support the district health authorities in monitoring, contact tracing and sample collection. Together we will get through this pandemic.