Rising to meet the challenge of COVID-19
As the world responds to the threat of COVID-19, lockdowns are making it more difficult for women and girls to access quality health products and services. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, SHOPS Plus perseveres in its work to ensure continued access to critical products and services while keeping our staff and partners safe.
In Afghanistan, SHOPS Plus project supports Afghan Social Marketing Organization (ASMO) to leverage the private sector’s potential to increase access to and demand for priority products for family planning and maternal and child health. During the lockdown, transportation companies suspended operations, so ASMO uses its own vehicles to supply pharmacies. Its sales agents travel equipped with protective clothes, masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. As the leading private sector provider of family planning and maternal and child health products, SHOPS Plus and ASMO remain firmly committed to serving the underserved in Afghanistan, even during this public health emergency.
When lockdowns interrupted supply chains in India, SHOPS Plus facilitated a meeting with manufacturers, the ministry of health, and donors to gain a better understanding of the problem. Providing a channel for the private sector to communicate with the government will help ease the flow of family planning products and ensure access to those who need it.
Our team has responded quickly in Nigeria where its focus is on increasing the availability of and access to TB services through the private sector. As fear of the coronavirus could lead to a decline in TB screening, the team trained its network of providers to distinguish COVID-19 from TB symptoms and integrate screenings for both diseases. Program staff have held virtual trainings with over 300 networked providers and used existing WhatsApp groups to disseminate information on integrated screening along with strategies to ensure the safety of providers and patients. In addition, SHOPS Plus rolled out training early on TB STARR, a mobile reporting app, to ensure that providers could continue to report TB cases during the lockdown.
SHOPS Plus recently worked with the Madagascar Ministry of Health’s Information System Studies and Planning Department and private sector stakeholders on a facility census. The census collected information on the number, location, characteristics, and health services of private health facilities in the country (pharmacies and drug shops are excluded). The next phase of the census will include a new section to assess the ability of private health facilities to contribute to the COVID-19 pandemic response. Stakeholders expressed their eagerness for this second phase of the census, as they will use the results to shape future activities with the private sector.
In Senegal, USAID tapped its partners to aid the national pandemic response. Understanding how integral the private sector is to the health system, the agency engaged SHOPS Plus to strengthen the country’s private sector COVID-19 response. By mobilizing new and existing resources, communication channels, and relationships with private providers, SHOPS Plus is ensuring the involvement of the private sector.
Similarly, Tanzania is facing an acute shortage of personal protective equipment and looming commodity security issues with family planning products due to lockdowns in India and China, primary sources of the country’s pharmaceutical and commodity supplies. The SHOPS Plus team helped to connect the association of pharmaceutical manufacturers, wholesalers, and suppliers with the ministry of health and the COVID-19 logistics committee. This connection will enable public and private collaboration to facilitate access to health and emergency supplies.
As COVID-19 spreads rapidly around the world, SHOPS Plus brings to bear the same capabilities it applies solving problems in other health areas. We are committed to innovating through technology, building on our strong partnerships with the public and private sectors and understanding of private sector supply chains to maintain access to priority products. Working with our partners both public and private, we continue to fulfill our mission while aiding in the fight against the pandemic.