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Partnering to ensure essential health services during the pandemic

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Safeguarding continuity of essential health services amidst the pandemic is a global challenge: when health systems are overwhelmed, people struggle to access vital care. As a result, both direct mortality from COVID-19 and indirect mortality from preventable and treatable conditions have been on the rise. WHO and its partners support countries maintain and boost their health systems’ performance and save lives.

Nepal: addressing NCDs with the help of the Norwegian government and WHO

The NORAD - WHO project aims to help strengthen the delivery of basic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) health services in Nepal to fight this growing health problem. The Norwegian Government is contributing as part of a wider commitment to WHO’s global fight to reduce NCDs.. NORAD, the development agency of the Norwegian Government, has funded the project, which will be implemented in 6 selected districts through the MoHP with technical assistance from WHO.

St. Vincent and The Grenadines: modernizing the health-care landscape with UK support

Smart Hospital is a US$60.5 million project currently implemented in 7 countries: Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Guyana and Jamaica. It is funded by UK Aid through its Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in the Caribbean and implemented by WHO/PAHO in close collaboration with ministries of health. The project aims to strengthen health facilities in the Caribbean. The Smart Health Centre in Barrouallie is the fourth of 7 critical facilities to be retrofitted, and has now been handed back to the community. The project is an important element in the country’s efforts to ensure vital public buildings can withstand disasters associated with climate change.

Burundi: dealing with HIV/AIDS while addressing COVID-19

National and international health stakeholders support the implementation of the National Health Development Plan (NHDP). WHO welcomes Burundi’s success in addressing the challenge of AIDS while fighting Covid-19. This was made possible as the country implements innovative national strategies for curbing the pandemics that have proven to have a broader impact. A new WHO-donated vehicle will accompany and facilitate the coordination actions of the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (COUSP) in terms of adequate and effective health system response to a variety of health emergencies.

Eritrea : thinking ahead for developing the national health sector of the future

Health actors join forces to help the country improve the health status, wellbeing, productivity and quality of life of its population Consensus building for the health sector development 2022-2026 was at the centre of a discussion between international and national health partners who got together to lay out a Health Sector Strategic and Development plan (2022-2026). The Plan will help Eritrea achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. WHO will provide technical and logistical support, in 4 areas: universal health coverage, health security, health determinants and health systems functionality.

Cambodia: maintaining essential services for pregnant women, mothers and babies, with help from UNFPA, US CDC and WHO

Ensuring all women of reproductive age including pregnant women, mothers and their children, continue having access to quality care before, during and after childbirth is a priority of the National Maternal and Child Health Center (NMCHC) of the Ministry of Health. WHO, UNFPA and other health partners have jointly supported NMCHC to develop guidance on how to organize services during the pandemic for nationwide implementation. NMCHC has taken preventive measures to improve infection prevention and control such as establishing screening and triage for all incoming patients, and isolation rooms have been organized for pregnant women with COVID-19. Between 18 April 2021 and 06 July 2021, 206 pregnant women with COVID-19 had safely delivered. These safe deliveries were made possible by the support of WHO, US-CDC and Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital (KSFH) who supported NMCHC to set up an operation room for COVID-19 positive pregnant women with complications requiring operative delivery.

Chad: UNAIDS and WHO work to prevent HIV in newborn

A workshop funded by UNAIDS and WHO brought together all national stakeholder authorities in charge of HIV/AIDS diagnostics. The focus was on improving testing to prevent mother-to-child transmission, even in times of a global pandemic, and ensuring access to anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV.

Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan: John Hopkins University and WHO helping close the know–do gap

WHO has launched a pilot project focused on improving school nutrition policies to prevent noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). Backed by John Hopkins University, WHO will work to improve implementation of evidence-based interventions and policies for tackling NCDs in schools and primary health care in these countries, where the implementation of school nutrition policies has not been consistently optimal.

NCDs are a leading cause of death in the WHO European Region. WHO is working throughout the region to close the gap between evidence and practice, to improve public health interventions in schools and other settings.

Iran, Jamaica: innovation to improve mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Only 3 weeks after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in Islamic Republic of Iran, the Ministry of Health and Medical Education, with support from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology, set up a national helpline so people could contact mental health professionals. The authorities systematically assessed the population’s mental health needs, as well as the human and financial resources and infrastructure needed to maintain essential mental health services. Recently, a plan has been implemented to address the mental health issues of individuals affected by the lockdowns, those who contracted and recovered from COVID-19, as well as the bereaved. Local, national and international partners support the transfer of evidence into country-specific formats and services, in multiple languages.

Health and education officials in Jamaica say better mental health literacy is the way forward, as they witness an increase in the mental health needs of secondary-school children, caused by schools closures, increased financial challenges at home and restrictions to freedoms of movement and physical contact. Teenmentalhealth.org has joined WHO/PAHO and Jamaica’s health and education authorities to train a cohort of 50 trainers from multiple disciplines, including senior education officers, health and family life educators, guidance counsellors, educational social workers and curriculum development specialists. They are now expected to train “go-to educators” such as health and family life educators, school nurses, guidance counsellors, coaches, deans of discipline and former teachers in schools across Jamaica.

**Cambodia, Lao PDR: building climate resilient health systems

A 4-year project (2019–2023), funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and WHO aims to strengthen the capacity of the health systems of 6 of the least-developed countries (LDCs) in Asia to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Institutional capacity will be strengthened, to improve health sector planning and effective decision-making, in order to shape climate-resilient health systems.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic implemented a broad range of activities and exercises to ensure that clinics and hospitals and their staff are equipped to deliver health care in the face of climate change and emergencies associated with extreme weather events.

In Cambodia, national authorities and partners focused on building the Health National Adaptation Plan and expanding health surveillance and early warning systems. The aim is to ensure that people can receive the health care they need, when climate-change-related disasters strike, with a particular focus on improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in health centres and communities.

The other Asian countries engaged in the GEF / UNDP – WHO project are Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor-Leste.

Guatemala: CERF and PAHO deliver services to populations affected by storms Eta and Iota

A temporary emergency care module was delivered by PAHO/WHO (The Pan American Health Organization / World Health Organization), with the financial support of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UN CERF), to provide health care in dignified and safe conditions to the inhabitants of Campur and the 161 surrounding communities in the department of Alta Verapaz. Health services in the region suffered damage to their infrastructure during the passage of tropical storms Eta and Iota. More than 50 volunteers, including young people, community leaders and health personnel, helped to install the module, under the initiative of "Un Techo Para Mi País" (A roof for my country) Foundation.

Nigeria: Record gains fighting tuberculosis amidst the coronavirus pandemic

Early in 2020, when the pandemic triggered lockdowns, diagnosis and enrollment for tuberculosis (TB) treatment fell. To address that, WHO and partners integrated TB case finding into the COVID-19 response structure in a massive outreach in 12 states. Nowadays, data indicate an increase in TB case notification due to strategic interventions by national stakeholders, in collaboration with WHO and other international actors who work towards TB control and elimination in Nigeria. TB case officers and community informants were trained on advocacy, house-to-house case search, contact tracing, and social mobilization. Efforts to locate jointly TB and COVID-19 cases included screening, laboratory services engagement with communities improved services in health facilities, in collaboration with USAID-KNCV.

Slovenia: Showcasing the strength of primary health care

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Community Health Centre (CHC) Ljubljana, located in the Slovenian capital, has quickly adapted to the situation with a dual-track system, enabling it to care for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients to help manage the burden of cases. It provides comprehensive preventive health care and treatment of chronic diseases, as well as response to emergency situations such as natural disasters and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

CHC Ljubljana provides emergency care, including COVID-19 mass vaccination and testing, while also treating ongoing or chronic illnesses, providing mental health support, and conducting research and development. Care is equally delivered to marginalized communities. WHO Europe praises this people-centered approach, which ensures that well equipped health centres are people’s first point of contact with the health system, providing comprehensive health care for communities.

São Tomé and Príncipe: not forgetting the need for tobacco prevention and control

Various state and non-state actors met and in person to carry out a needs assessment mission for the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) in São Tomé and Principe. The needs assessment is being jointly conducted by the Government of São Tomé and Príncipe, the Secretariat of the Convention, WHO, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which wanted to evaluate to the implementation of the Treaty, which São Tomé and Príncipe ratified in 2006. Implementation gaps were identified of the FCTC and recommendations shared on how to accelerate FCTC the implementation, thus ensuring universal protection from tobacco-related harm in São Tomé and Príncipe.

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Read more about how WHO supports primary health care around the world

With the support of donors and partners, WHO is reaching countries in need to help strengthen their health systems and ensure continuity of essential health services, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Partners and donors recognized in this feature are the governments of Norway and the United Kingdom; Volunteer partnership Teenmentalhealth.org, Foundation Un Techo Para Mi País, John Hopkins University and the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), UNAIDS, UN CERF, UNDP, UNFPA, USAID.

WHO thanks all governments, organizations and individuals contributing to the COVID-19 response around the world since the beginning of the outbreak, and in particular those who have provided fully flexible contributions, to ensure a comprehensive fight against the disease.

Member States and other governments in 2021:

Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lesotho, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States.

Other partners in 2021:

African Development Bank Group, African Reinsurance Corporation, Asian Development Bank, AMMIE, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, China Medical Board, COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, European Commission (ECHO and NEAR), Food and Agriculture Organization, Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Gavi-The Vaccine Alliance, Global Fund, IAED Relief, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Islamic Development Bank, National Philanthropic Trust, King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), Kuwait Fund for Development, Makerere University Lung Institute, OCADES, Organization of African Youth, Réseau des plateformes d'ONG d'Afrique Centrale, Red Cross Burkina Faso, Rockefeller Foundation, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, Task Force for Global Health, United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Veolia Environment Foundation, Vital Strategies, United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), University of Bouake , World Bank.

Read more about donors and partners contributing to the COVID-19 response

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