North Star Alliance’s Response to COVID-19
Marginalised populations in sub-Saharan Africa are already being hit the hardest as a result of the lockdowns and other measures that have been introduced to prevent an escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic across the region. It’s feared that any major outbreak within the region, could potentially have devastating results, due to the limitations of the public health infrastructure and ICU bed capacity.
Our priority therefore is to support the vulnerable populations we serve throughout this crisis and in doing so, implementing emergency response mechanisms to help contain the spread of the virus amongst key populations, whilst ensuring we provide a continuity of healthcare services and access to treatments and medication for other communicable diseases and illnesses.
Mobile populations, including truck drivers make up a significant proportion of North Star’s beneficiary group, who in spite of the recently imposed travel restrictions, will be required to continue transporting essential goods such as food and medicines across Africa. With our clinic network located along sub-Saharan Africa’s main transport corridors, we therefore recognise the important role North Star will play in detecting cases and reducing the risk of the virus spreading between countries and across borders.
With the support of our partners we’ve significantly strengthened our response measures by ensuring frontline staff are sufficiently prepared with the necessary equipment, guidance and information. Whilst simultaneously ramping up awareness raising, through community based campaigns and existing outreach interventions, including the distribution of education materials, as we work in solidarity with the global community in an effort to flatten the curve and suppress the virus.
Mobilising our COVID-19 Emergency Response along the transport corridors of sub-Saharan Africa
With the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, our target population was rendered even more vulnerable, with the weaker health systems in Africa and a high burden of infectious diseases. In recognition of this, North Star Alliance ramped up its emergency response and remains vigilant and responsive as we work with our partners to contain the further spread of the virus.
News, Stories & Opinions
Ngodwana drop-in centres take North Star’s services to the heart of the community
10 August 2020
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic our staff have remained fully committed and worked tirelessly to ensure our clients, including those living with HIV, are able to access the vital medication needed to keep them healthy. As illustrated in this video report by The Associated Press, staff at our Ngodwana clinic in South Africa have set up mobile drop-in centres in the local community, to remove the accessibility barrier caused by extra travel costs or restrictions, resulting from new government enforced lockdown measures. Not only does this enable vital medication such as antiretroviral pills to be distributed, but also provides our staff with the opportunity to sensitise clients about the risks presented by coronavirus. You can also read the full written report here.
Dutch National Newspaper Reports: continuity of care in South Africa during lockdown
23 June 2020
The mobile access we’ve been providing around our Ngodwana clinic was featured this week in two well known Dutch national newspapers, Trouw and the FD. The lockdown in South Africa has meant access to our clinics was severely limited particularly during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even after the restrictions were relaxed, many of our clients, including those requiring treatment for HIV were still reluctant to leave the house, due to the fear of contracting coronavirus. To ensure they continued to receive access to the vital medication they need, our frontline teams have been active in going out into the community to set up mobile clinics where they provide amongst other services, medication for HIV, condom distribution, as well as testing.
North Star partners with Nakuru County Government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19
5 June 2020
We’ve been working in partnership with Nakuru County Government in Kenya, who’ve recently set up a COVID-19 testing centre in a container adjacent to our Maai Maihu clinic. Alongside the diagnosis and treatments of other diseases such as HIV and Malaria, we’re also currently screening and sensitising drivers to motivate behavioural change and inform them on the immediate measures they can take to stay safe, and slow the spread of coronavirus. This intervention reaffirms and demonstrates our firm commitment to protecting the wellbeing of long distance drivers, who have such a vital role in the transportation of emergency and essential goods and supplies, during the current health crisis. This story also featured recently in a report on Ebru Television, which can watch here.
Sensitising Truck drivers in East Africa on COVID-19
4 June 2020
Truck drivers face a greater potential risk of exposure to coronavirus whilst spending many hours on the road, transporting essential goods across borders. Some drivers are now even being discriminated against and labeled as ‘Corona carriers’ by local roadside residents. This has increasingly become a big topic of discussion and debate in recent weeks and is covered in this insightful piece written by Lilian Museka, published in Talk Africa, which also highlights how we’ve been providing sensitising and screening for truck drivers in East Africa on COVID-19, to minimise the risk of exposure and transmission.
BBC World Business Report: North Star’s Eva Mwai interviewed on our integrated COVID-19 response
16 May 2020
One notion currently being touted on the reason there have so far been relatively fewer COVID-19 cases across the African continent than many had initially projected, is the existing infrastructure and experience of containing other epidemics such as HIV and Ebola. The topic was explored further on the BBC World Business Report, in an interview with our East African Regional Director, Eva Mwai, in which she describes the example of North Star’s flexibility to easily integrate healthcare provision for new infectious diseases, including coronavirus. You can listen to the report in full via BBC Sounds by clicking here, Eva’s section begins at 10min.03sec. Also featured is an interview with Karlee Silver, Co-Chief Executive, from our partner Grand Challenges Canada.
Risk of truck drivers spreading COVID-19 across borders – North Star feature in Le Monde
13 May 2020
North Star have been featured in the French National Newspaper Le Monde, in this very interesting piece about the concern of truck drivers spreading COVID-19 across East Africa. Truck Drivers are one of the few remaining groups to be allowed to travel around, amidst the lockdowns imposed by governments across the region. Speaking on this topic, our very own Osborne Ndalo, Site Coordinator for our Jomvu clinic, located on the outskirts of Mombasa, highlights that “truck drivers fall into a high risk group, due to their mobility and that they come into contact with people from different regions and backgrounds”. The article also offers an insight into the different approaches adopted by the various countries across the region, and the slight tensions this has occasionally caused as a result.
Scania East Africa supplies North Star with vital PPE
13 May 2020
Due to the transient nature of their work, truck drivers face a considerably higher risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, whilst travelling along transport corridors and between borders. This not only presents a risk for their own health, but also heightens the opportunity for the virus to spread across communities and countries as a result. It’s crucial therefore to ensure drivers are sufficiently protected, to mitigate the chances of them becoming a carrier not only for he goods they transport across Africa, but also for the virus. We’re therefore extremely grateful to Scania East Africa who yesterday provided North Star with a generous donation of valuable PPE, including medical face shields, latex gloves and other materials, which will provide vital protection for our cohort of truck driver clients, as well as clinic staff.
Grand Challenges Canada help mobilise North Star’s response to COVID-19
27 April 2020
We’re very proud to be included as one of the twenty innovators recognised by Grand Challenges Canada (GCC), for their COVID-19 response efforts in developing countries. Funded by the Government of Canada and other partners, GCC’s mission is to catalyse innovation to help save and improve the lives of the most vulnerable in low and middle-income countries, as well as Canada. To this end, GCC are currently supporting our Crisis Response Team (CRT) programme, which combats violence against sex workers, to reduce the transmission of STIs including HIV amongst marginalised communities. In a broader context, North Star’s work on infection prevention will be key in reducing the rate of COVID-19 transmissions amongst the hard to reach and vulnerable communities we serve across sub-Saharan Africa. Keep an eye on this page for further updates on how North Star and GCC will be combining expertise to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic across the regions in which we work.
Trafigura and Puma Energy Foundations accelerate our COVID-19 response
17 April 2020
In wake of the rapidly increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases spreading across Africa, we’re continuing to escalate our response to this global pandemic. Our dedicated teams of frontline staff have been exemplary in their efforts so far, by maximising the use of the relatively limited supplies currently at their disposal. However, we’ve also been cautious that resources could soon become stretched and are therefore incredibly grateful to our partners, Trafigura Foundation and Puma Energy Foundation, who have kindly stepped forward and offered to support our infection prevention and control measures. This includes amongst other things, funding the purchase of vital personal protective equipment, emergency trays, the development and dissemination of information and education materials, as well as psychosocial support for our clinic staff. We’d like to publicly say an enormous and heartfelt thank you to both foundations for this kind and speedy response, which will no doubt be hugely invaluable to the staff supporting the vulnerable and hard to reach populations we serve, out on the frontline.
Increasing isolation capacity in Tunduma
1 April 2020
As part of their response to COVID-19, our colleagues in Tanzania have been working in close partnership with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly & Children (MoH) as part of our response to COVID-19 to set up an isolation unit at our Tunduma clinic, where suspected cases will be monitored whilst waiting for their test results. If identified as positive, patients will be referred to the government health centre in Tunduma Town, where they’ll undergo further monitoring and intensive treatment if necessary. Following their initial visit to the Tunduma clinic the MoH were taken back by the level of preparedness and emergency response measures that were already in place and to strengthen preparations even further, invited our staff to participate in a COVID-19 case management training session, on screening and treatments.
Thanks to our partners & supporters
We are tremendously grateful to all our partners and the organisations supporting North Star Alliance in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and would like to say an enormous thank you for helping us safeguard the health of some of the most vulnerable communities, during this global health crisis.