The COVID-19 crises in Nepal and Uganda are far from over. Whilst case numbers are declining, low vaccination rates and the easing of lockdown measures leave their populations at risk of another surge in infections that could prove disastrous for these already vulnerable populations. Adara’s teams are showing strong leadership by using the brief respite in cases to prepare for this likely surge and ensure that communities remain vigilant against spreading COVID-19, and have access to the necessary resources to mitigate the impacts of the virus.
Thankfully, the peak of infections in Nepal’s second wave of COVID-19 has passed. The country is now experiencing an average of 1,700 new cases daily, with around 20-30 people still dying from the virus each day. Sadly, the national death toll since the beginning of the pandemic has now surpassed 9,600. Experts believe a third wave of infections is likely in Nepal, with only 10% of the population having received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Schools in Humla remain closed for the time being, with very little certainty on when students will return to the classroom.
With your support, Adara’s team in Nepal have been able to support more people than ever before across the health, education, and child protection sectors. For example, our work at the Indian border at Nepalgunj in partnership with Nepal Police, UNICEF and the Nepal Red Cross has supported over 100,000 Nepali migrants returning from India since the beginning of the May, supporting them with testing, health information, drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, and health kits for those requiring quarantine. We have continuously supplied health posts and hospitals with a range of PPE and essential medicines, and we have sourced numerous oxygen cylinders and concentrators to assist these facilities with the treatment of COVID-19 patients. At the height of the crisis, our team also established emergency accommodation for nurses on the frontline so they could have somewhere to stay that would keep their families safe.
Unfortunately, the Delta variant is proving more dangerous to younger people that previous variants of COVID-19. To increase the capacity of the healthcare system to better cope with another surge in infections, the team have worked with the Ghyangfedi local government to set up a Children’s Ward within an unused floor of the existing COVID-19 isolation centre. The ward includes 10 child-safe beds, each with their own teddy bear and bedding decorated with popular cartoon characters, a range of toys and a television.
As well as fighting on the frontline of COVID, we have worked hard to ensure essential education services continue. In both Humla and Ghyangfedi, teachers are continuing their regular home visits to students to support their learning, while the distance learning programme is broadcasting radio classes to more than 17,000 children in Humla.
The Ugandan population are still in lockdown and thankfully, COVID-19 cases are beginning to decline from their peak, with an average of 300 new infections daily. Unfortunately, there is currently an average of 30 deaths per day, with the total death toll since the beginning of the pandemic surpassing 2,400. Sadly, many leading doctors and other health workers have been lost to COVID in the past three months. Less than 2.5% of the population have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Adara’s partner, Kiwoko Hospital, have battled heroically over the past 2 months while the number and severity of cases increased. Since the beginning of this second wave, Kiwoko Hospital had 47 staff test positive for COVID-19. We are grateful that none were seriously ill and all have now recovered and returned to work. Despite these staffing challenges, Kiwoko was able to provide high quality care to 297 COVID-19 positive patients since the beginning of this second wave, including 24 mothers in the maternity ward. These patients were cared for expertly by the Kiwoko team and we are relieved that most have since recovered. However after a brief respite with the easing of cases, the hospital admitted another five COVID-19 patients in the past week. COVID-19 patients who had been discharged from hospital are returning to Kiwoko weeks later, still very ill, and still requiring access to oxygen, as they struggle to fully recover. This second wave is far from over and the team are determined that the community does not become complacent.
Throughout Uganda’s second wave, Adara’s staff have continued delivering essential maternal, newborn and child health services in a COVID-safe way, overcoming a number of challenges such as disruptions to staffing. Since January, we have been able to provide care to 1,485 women admitted to the maternity ward, and to 635 small and sick newborns requiring care in the neonatal intensive care unit. 3,602 children also received childhood immunisations during this period.
Thankfully, 80% of our volunteer Village Health Teams (VHTs) have received at least a first dose of vaccine, allowing them to continue their home follow-up visits to at-risk infants discharged from the Kiwoko NICU into our Hospital to Home programme. Where they are unable to visit, the VHTs have been conducting phone check-ups. Adara also continues to host a weekly radio programme reaching 10 districts, which covers a different health-related topic each week, including topics on maternal and newborn health, as well as COVID-19 prevention. The programme is interactive, and the community can call in with their questions. This work helps ensure the community are receiving regular updates on how best to stay safe and look after their health during this crisis.
The crisis is far from over in Uganda and our team are working hard to prepare for another surge in cases. This week, Kiwoko Hospital are anticipating the arrival of more oxygen concentrators for their respiratory unit, and Adara has secured a donation of oxygen concentrators to support Nakaseke Hospital. The Kiwoko team are also making infrastructure improvements, including constructing an additional isolation unit in the neonatal intensive care unit and the maternity ward at Kiwoko Hospital. This will allow for newborns with respiratory symptoms or mother who are COVID-19 positive to be isolated from other patients.
Thank you for standing with Adara and being an important part of this work. Together, we are ensuring the people of Uganda and Nepal can continue to access essential education and health services, even amidst a global pandemic.