Fighting COVID-19 in South Sudan’s capital by making phone calls
Amy van Drunen
In June, Medair, an international humanitarian aid organisation, launched a phone-based COVID-19 Home Care Support System in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, which is among the areas of greatest risk for the spread of COVID-19.
The country has confirmed 2,761 COVID-19 cases as of 9 October. A large-scale COVID-19 outbreak in South Sudan, a country that has faced crisis after crisis over the past years, will have a devastating impact on the lives of the people.
“Already before the outbreak, South Sudan was embroiled in one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in recent memory. The country has suffered crisis after crisis: sustained insecurity, mass displacement, recurring natural disasters, a desert locust infestation, a severe economic crisis, and now the COVID-19 outbreak. More than two thirds of the population need humanitarian assistance. And then there is the extremely fragile health system and poor sanitation facilities. If you put all of this together, it sadly means that there is a high risk for fast spreading and an exceptionally high case number while the health system will be unable to manage it,” elaborates Sarah Robinson, Project Coordinator of Medair’s Emergency Response Team in South Sudan.
With the phone-based COVID-19 Home Care Support System, Medair provides remote case management support for suspected and confirmed mild and moderate COVID-19 patients and their households. The call centre team calls patients, offering tailored advice that includes remote medical advice, psychosocial support, and extensive health and hygiene promotion, including advice on shielding of high-risk family members. In doing so, the team works closely with the World Health Organization and South Sudan’s Ministry of Health to improve referral pathways and case management.
“We have developed algorithms that guide our colleagues on the phone through a series of critical questions to understand a patient’s current condition, specific vulnerabilities, and additional needs,” says Sarah.
She adds: “We have been running the call centre for over three months now. It has not always been easy to set up the system as we had to work outside of our normal experience. Yet, hearing the feedback from the patients, I’m strongly reminded of why we are doing what we are doing. People tell us that our phone calls make them feel cared for and a little less lonely in their home isolation. To us, that makes it more than worth all the effort.”
Medair’s Home Based Support System is funded by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund and UK aid from the UK government.
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Medair is an international humanitarian NGO that provides emergency relief and recovery services to families made vulnerable by natural disasters, conflicts, and other crises.
For more information on Medair’s South Sudan programme, click here.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and Global Support Office staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.