Making projects COVID-19-proof to ensure participants’ safety and health
Lao PDR confirmed its first cases of COVID-19 on 24 March 2020. Since then, several restrictions have been imposed on the general public as well as the public, private and non-governmental sectors. Currently, from 1 to 20 April 2020, the country is in a lockdown period in an attempt to contain the so far low number of infected cases and prevent a larger outbreak as seen in, for instance, neighbouring Thailand.
Adhering to these regulations, HPP Laos and Humana FPP staff are now all working from their homes. Field activities with in-person contact to beneficiaries have been paused and new ways of community engagement are being developed and trialled. For the TC TB project, this means that project staff are continuing to provide treatment adherence support to TB patients by phone and instant messenger services. They also inform target communities about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention through these channels. The WHO has stressed that TB patients are particularly vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, and thus TB service providers have a responsibility to continue their activities in a context-appropriate way. The Global Fund, our TC TB project’s donor, has made additional funds available to increase awareness raising activities which incorporate both TB and COVID-19.
In the Food and Nutrition Security project, Farming Instructors and Agriculture Development Facilitators are also remaining in close contact with FC committees and Step Up Farmers through phone calls and messages. They are supporting community leaders to continue project activities autonomously. Such activities include finalising of irrigation systems, tending to their demonstration plots and home gardens, and looking after animals they have received from the project. The project is also working on introducing COVID-19-specific activities: Humana FPP and their project partner, Health Poverty Action (HPA), will cooperate to make use of HPA’s recently installed loudspeaker systems in 68 target villages. HPA established these systems to broadcast nutrition-sensitive key messages to communities and has already provided communities with additional messages on COVID-19 prevention. The project partners also plan to support village authorities in any further activities towards raising their communities’ awareness on the disease.