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The new coronavirus has the whole world in its grip. Although the African countries seem to have been hit less hard for now, the consequences could still turn dramatic. This is why Belgium is aiming to make as much use of its development cooperation as possible for the battle against COVID-19.
The Belgian Development Cooperation is also building further upon its internationally recognised strong reputation in terms of healthcare. Health programmes are being supported in 9 of the governmental cooperation's 14 partner countries. Our country is not choosing to combat specific diseases in doing so. It prefers to support the partner countries' governments in developing resilient and effective health services. This is intended to enable them to tackle all health issues themselves in the long term.
Enabel is carrying out the governmental cooperation. At the start of the corona crisis, it rapidly reviewed the ways it could adjust the running health programmes to prepare the partner countries as well and as quickly as possible for the corona crisis. In the meantime, the agency has already undertaken a range of actions with success.
Belgium is also aiming to raise the impact of its development cooperation by collaborating with the European Commission and other EU Member States under the umbrella of Team Europe. In Niger, for example, Enabel will implement a COVID-19 project funded by the EU, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
You can find all of Enabel's COVID-19 actions here. We will present a few actions.
Ambulances for Congo
Enabel has delivered 4 fully equipped ambulances to the Congolese partner. The agency was responding to a requirement from the technical secretariat for the COVID-19 response in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Two of these were taken to Saint Joseph's Hospital in Kinshasa. This is one of the 5 reference hospitals where patients infected with the COVID-19 virus are taken. Enabel also provided a set of mobile hand-washing units.
Raising awareness among the Guinean population
In Guinea, Enabel has introduced a corona element to all its programmes. For example, the Belgian Development Cooperation actions (around entrepreneurship and women's rights) now also involve raising awareness around COVID-19. They are also distributing face masks, hand gels, hand-washing packages and so on.
A project around waste management, financed by the European Commission, was also adjusted. Along with a number of NGOs, Enabel began running training courses for raising awareness of hygiene and other precautionary measures among the population. It also supplied awareness-raising materials and hand-washing packages.
Enabel is attempting to work as effectively as possible. For example, the lorries delivering materials do not return to the capital city of Conakry empty, but instead take pineapples and watermelons with them. This way, they are helping farmers who cannot travel to the capital city to sell their wares on the market anymore due to the lockdown.
Supporting the national response plan in Niger
The Nigerien government, along with the United Nations, UNICEF and other organisations, has drawn up a national response plan. For example, large awareness-raising posters are being put up and equipment is being distributed. People with suspected symptoms can call a special national telephone number.
Enabel is supporting the coordination of this national response plan. To this end, it is participating in Ministry of Public Health meetings to share in the thinking around good awareness-raising messaging and the distribution of materials, or to offer assistance with good transport. It also donated some laptops to make video conferencing possible.
For the health personnel, Enabel is providing training courses on detecting and preventing COVID-19. Among other things, it bought testing kits for laboratories, masks, disinfectants and soap. Along with other European countries, Enabel will also be purchasing ventilation equipment: 20 ventilators and 70 oxygen concentrators for hospitals, alongside the ventilation equipment for 5 ambulances. Currently, the country only has 12 ventilators in its possession.
Finally, Enabel is helping to disseminate awareness-raising messaging via local radio stations in the local languages. After all, it is essential that the entire population is aware of the precautionary measures.
© Enabel / Tim Dirven
Training health workers in Mali
In total, Enabel will train 558 health workers from 10 health districts in Mali. Furthermore, awareness raising around COVID-19 will be carried out with 1,000 opinion leaders in the communities. They, in turn, can then be responsible for preventing and combatting the pandemic in their community. Enabel also supplied machinery and protective equipment against COVID-19 (see picture on top of the article).