How support from ECHO helped contain COVID-19 in Khartoum

A laboratory technician on a COVID-19 rapid response team conducts a PCR test at a home in Khartoum.

Mohammed Hassan gets really excited about garbage.

On a recent visit to Omar Ibn Khatab Primary Health Centre in Khartoum, Sudan, the World Health Organization (WHO) infection prevention and control (IPC) specialist watched as a health worker carefully donned protective gear and threw away medical waste in a special blue container outside the facility.

“This work is my baby,” he said with a broad smile.

Hussein Sala Habib disposes of medical waste in a container specially set up for this purpose at Omar Ibn Khatab Primary Health Centre in Khartoum.

It’s not something people think much about, Mohammed explained, but it’s vitally important. Keeping potentially infectious medical waste separate from other garbage is one of a number of IPC measures that help keep health facilities safe for staff and patients. Ensuring good hand hygiene, using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and creating a screening and triage system for people entering health facilities are also key.

Nurse Nour (right) takes the temperature of incoming patients at a triage point at the entrance to Omar Ibn Khatab Primary Health Centre. She also provides them with hand sanitizer and masks.

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the extent to which health care settings can contribute to the spread of infections, harming patients, health workers and visitors, if too little attention is paid to IPC. But a new report from WHO shows that where good hand hygiene and other cost-effective practices are followed, 70% of those infections can be prevented.

IPC’s relatively low-cost and high-impact is one of the reasons why the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) included it as part of a package of support for the COVID-19 response in Sudan.

In collaboration with ECHO, WHO has helped 105 primary health care centres in Khartoum to upgrade IPC measures since mid-2020. The work ranges from installing additional handwashing basins, to providing masks and other protective equipment, to training staff.

An ambulance used by health authorities for COVID-19 patient transport.

Through WHO, ECHO has also provided 7 ambulances to health authorities in Khartoum for safe patient transport, has supported COVID-19 treatment centres, is providing laboratories with training and equipment, and is helping implement campaigns for the “last mile” delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.

Another key to the COVID-19 response in Khartoum has been the work of rapid response teams working for the Ministry of Health.

The teams usually consist of a doctor, a laboratory technician and a health promotor. To help them respond to COVID-19 alerts, ECHO and WHO provided the teams with training, testing kits and PPE.

To help them respond to COVID-19 alerts, ECHO and WHO provided the teams with training, testing kits and PPE. At the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in the Sudanese capital, the teams were responding to around 120 alerts per week.

A COVID-19 rapid response team put on PPE as they prepare to respond to a COVID-19 alert in Khartoum.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, the EU, the EU Member States and the European financial institutions, working collectively as Team Europe, have actively supported the global response to the pandemic.

The interventions in Khartoum have helped protect health workers and ensured health service provision throughout the pandemic, and will serve to strengthen the health system beyond COVID-19.

Read more about WHO — EU strategic engagement.

See how ECHO funding is helping boost COVID-19 vaccination in Africa.

Learn about WHO’s work in Sudan.

All photos: © WHO / Lindsay Mackenzie

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The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

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