‘With a quick response from our community and help from NALA, we have been able to educate and prepare the residents of Adwa on how to slow the spread of COVID-19.’ Gebrehewot Dagnew, Adwa Project Manager, Tigray, Ethiopia.
In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 pandemic, coinciding with Ethiopia’s first confirmed case of coronavirus. The profound impact of of the virus on developing countries, including in Ethiopia, raised significant concerns due to the country’s limited healthcare capacity, resources, and equipment to face the pandemic. Further exacerbated by the challenges of promoting preventative measures such as proper hand hygiene became a critical challenge, compounded by the communal lifestyle prevalent in rural communities. Addressing the spread of the virus required a rapid, innovative, and collaborative approach across different sectors, and NALA pivoted its work to do this.
Recognizing the urgent need to combat COVID-19, NALA, as an expert in disease prevention in Ethiopia, collaborated with international partners to adapt and expand its operations. Swiftly establishing a rapid response team, stationed at both project sites and in Addis Ababa, they assessed the needs on the ground, engaged with community stakeholders, and spearheaded efforts to combat the threat of COVID-19. With an emphasis on community health workers at the forefront of disease prevention efforts, throughout 2020 and 2021, NALA committed its expertise and resources to address the crises devoted using effective health messaging, targeted advocacy with local leaders, provision support to health centers, and the installation of strategically located hand washing facilities.
Aligned with the Ethiopian government’s guidelines for safe and accessible hand washing in schools, NALA worked closely with beneficiary communities to construct innovative and community-friendly hand washing stations. For instance, in the Dembia District of the Amhara Region, they successfully constructed foot-operated hand washing facilities with a capacity of 420 liters in five schools. Similarly, in the Bench Maji Zone of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), NALA built 6 rainwater harvesting systems capable of storing 2000 liters of water in four rural schools. Linked directly to multi-faucet hand washing stations, this system also worked to encourage safe social distancing, preventing the spread of COVID-19.
NALA also extended its support to healthcare centers in the Oromia Region, home to the capital Addis Ababa, where COVID-19 transmission rates were particularly high. Recognizing the critical need for infection, prevention, and control materials including masks, soap, and hand sanitizers, NALA provided essential supplies to healthcare workers. As the pandemic progressed, healthcare centers in Oromia specifically requested waste bins for the safe disposal of contaminated materials, with NALA, in response, distributing waste bins to over 70 healthcare centers across the Region.
Through these concerted efforts, NALA demonstrated commitment to combating the COVID-19 crisis in Ethiopia, addressing the needs of communities, schools, and healthcare facilities and supporting prevention efforts. With reductions in coronavirus prevalence, NALA pivoted back to regular disease prevention efforts, with learnings from the pandemic integrated into NALA’s interventions moving forward.