Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic – The ECSA-HC Online Webinars
The World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020, declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a global pandemic. Following that, the African Union, through the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) developed and endorsed in February 2020 the “Africa Joint Continental Strategy for COVID-19 Outbreak Strategy.”2 In line with this Africa Union endorsed strategy, the East Central and Southern Africa Health Community is partnering with WHO, Africa CDC, Private Organizations, Member States and other in-country partners to implement this strategy through training and capacity building of country teams in several areas of COVID-19 Response
As a response to controlling the pandemic, countries imposed different levels of restrictions that limited travel between and within countries. Given that COVID-19 is novel, there was limited knowledge about the virus and response to the pandemic hence, as the pandemic has evolved, the need for training and capacity building in preparedness and response to the pandemic became increasingly critical. In response, ECSA-HC, under its Southern Africa TB Health Systems Support (SATBHSS) project conducted a short consultation with its four project countries on areas of need. Given the current travel restrictions, from April 2020, ECSA-HC has organized and hosted a number of Online Webinar Sessions based on the needs expressed by the countries. Since these are online, the Webinar Sessions have also benefited been countries beyond the four SATBHSS project countries to ECSA-HC Member States and beyond in the Africa Region.
On average, there were 45 participants from most regions of Africa; East Africa – Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi; Southern Africa – Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and West Africa – Cameroon, Burkina Faso.
During the interactive sessions, participants interacted with COVID-19 Experts in the different areas of clinical management and diagnosis of COVID-19, infection prevention and control and continental strategies in expanding COVID-19 testing. Based on participant feedback, the sessions informed Member States response strategies and the development and implementation of their preparedness and response guidelines, procedures and plans. The sessions provided an opportunity for participants to remain up to date with the ever-changing information related to the novel virus.
Table 1 summarizes the thematic areas (Webinar Series) as derived from countries expressed needs, session topics discussed and the local, regional and global institutions collaborated with in delivery of the online sessions