The distribution of drugs for seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC) is an essential health service for the prevention of malaria. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working to adapt our plans and engaging in dialogue with decision-makers in government to find solutions to carry out the SMC programme successfully. In delivering SMC in Burkina Faso, Chad and Nigeria, our primary focus is on ensuring the safety of all those involved. Enhanced safety measures are required to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission, particularly for community distributors and beneficiaries who come into contact during the household-to-household delivery of SMC.
Some of the measures Malaria Consortium is taking to protect beneficiaries, community distributors and other staff who are on the frontline of delivering this essential service, are outlined below.
Personal protective equipment: as long as supplies are available, all community distributors will be provided with the requisite equipment to protect them and beneficiaries when they are in close contact. This includes masks and gloves. We are also providing them with disinfecting solution, soap, jerry cans for water, biowaste bags, and additional shirts and hijabs to allow for frequent washing. Health facilities will also be provided with thermometers and community distributors will be asked to have their temperature monitored twice a day during the distribution period.
Adapting job aids with COVID-19 specific guidance: Malaria Consortium routinely provides community distributors with step-by-step best practice for the distribution of SMC drugs. Through specially designed flipbook job aids, community distributors have a visual resource with them at all times to guide them through the process. However, in light of COVID-19, these job aids have been updated with reference to COVID-19 symptoms and personal protective equipment required for each stage of the distribution. The job aid will also be laminated so it can be disinfected frequently.
Specific triage guidance for children and caregivers: when community distributors are carrying out door-to-door distribution of SMC drugs, they will follow enhanced hygiene and distancing measures including physical distancing of two metres, wearing a mask and gloves and handwashing before and after every household delivery. This guidance has also been updated to allow community distributors to ask COVID-19 specific questions within different households and refer them to other parts of the health system should they need COVID-19 related care.
Community engagement: In addition to these specific measures, broader activities such as health facility assessments, which are carried out to ensure the suitability of some facilities for use in the programme, began with in-person visits earlier in the year but have been switched to remote checks as the risk from COVID-19 increased. Our global operations team are also working on procurement of additional personal protective equipment to address any gaps that cannot be filled from national stockpiles. Due to global shortages, this is proving challenging.
Maddy Marasciulo is Case Management Specialist for Malaria Consortium.