IOM Supports Guinea-Bissau’s Preparedness and Response to COVID-19
Bissau – With 40 confirmed cases as of 14 April 2020, Guinea-Bissau is one of the least affected countries with COVID-19 in West Africa. But this has not stopped the small West African country from heightening its preparation and developing its response to the emergency.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM has supported the Government of Guinea-Bissau in its effort to face the disease through IOM’s expertise in surveillance, training, risk communication and coordination.
Starting last month, IOM launched a data collection and monitoring application to gather essential information and facilitate the screening and monitoring of travelers at all key points of entry, including the capital’s Osvaldo Vieira International Airport. Over 30 border agents were trained in the use of a new surveillance system which works via portable tablets to allow border agents to record essential information for monitoring purposes.
Risk communication being essential to prevent the spread of diseases such as COVID-19, IOM also recently trained 125 community leaders, in the regions of Gabu, Oio and Bafata on COVID-19 prevention. This helps strengthen community health security, as well as bolstering local awareness of key preventive measures. Among the leaders trained were village chiefs and other local administrators, health officials, traditional healers, priests, imams and community broadcasters.
The training also provided an opportunity to demystify myths and clarify rumors circulating in communities such as miracle cures against the disease. Some of those include bathing in the sea (because saltwater is good against the virus) and drinking lemon juice.
After the training sessions, leaders were equipped with information, education and communication materials to help them reach out to community members.
The awareness raising is also extremely important to sensitize on the negative effect of stigmatization that is growing in the country. Prevention of stigma is essential as many people who show symptoms may refuse to be tested fearing a stigma if they test positive to the infection.
IOM has worked this ground before. During the last Ebola outbreak in West Africa, IOM supported the Government of Guinea-Bissau with the development of Standard Operating Procedures for Points of Entry (POEs), prevention and community surveillance to limit the spread of the virus.
“We work closely with the Operational Center for Epidemiological Surveillance (COES) on updating these SOPs for the swift detection, notification and management of suspected COVID-19 cases, as well as active surveillance through health screening, referral and data collection at the terrestrial PoEs”, said Laura Amadori, IOM Guinea-Bissau Chief of Mission.
Through funding provided by IOM’s Migration Resource Allocation Committee (MIRAC), IOM plans to continue its support to the Government of Guinea-Bissau to control further transmission and mitigate the overall impact of the outbreak, with attention to vulnerable groups.
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