The Covid-19 Action Fund for Africa (CAF-Africa) is providing almost 40 million additional personal protective equipment (PPE) to community health workers (CHWs) in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The self-organized collaborative effort between 30 organizations was formed in 2020, anchored by $10 million in funding from Direct Relief. Since its inception, the initiative has delivered over 121 pieces of PPE – including 94 million face masks – to help protect CHWs from Covid-19 and enable them to continue their vital work.
Community health workers provide health care to over 400 million people across Africa in communities otherwise underserved by formal health systems. CHWs work in priority health areas such as child nutrition, maternal and child health, expanding access to family planning services and improving infectious disease control for HIV, malaria and malaria. tuberculosis – but they are often the last to receive the PPE.
The initiative was created as a stopgap to rapidly scale up the supply and delivery of PPE to CHWs, becoming the fifth largest PPE buyer in the world in 2020 and the only initiative specifically focused on CHWs. As this initiative draws to a close, CAF-Afrique has distributed essential PPE to nearly 480,000 health workers in 18 African countries.
In addition to its funding, Direct Relief led the supply and maritime logistics to purchase the PPE and deliver it to African ports. Other CAF-Africa partners and national Ministries of Health have led the distribution of PPE in Africa and down to the last mile.
“As Covid-19 cases continue and variants emerge, protection of community health workers is imperative,” said Thomas Tighe, President and CEO of Direct Relief. “Direct Relief is privileged to support the public health effort with PPE infusions.”
When CAF-Africa released its first year report in July 2021, the organizations involved in the effort believed the effort was coming to an end. But with new variants and limited access to vaccines in sub-Saharan Africa, the need for continued access to PPE has remained critical. With over $3 million in new funding from the Trafigura Foundation, IZUMI Foundation and Crown Family Philanthropies, CAF-Africa in this third round sent PPE to 10 African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic Congo (DRC), Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) providing additional protection to over 300,000 CHWs.
This new funding enabled CAF-Afrique to purchase and distribute 39.6 million additional personal protective equipment, including surgical and non-surgical masks and pairs of gloves. In addition, FIGS provided 100,000 high quality reusable cloth masks for community distribution by the DRC Ministry of Health. All supplies provided by this new round of funding are expected to reach the last mile by the end of March.
Pandemic Action Network, a member of the CAF-Africa coalition, released a policy brief in January assessing progress in the global distribution of PPE to frontline health workers. It identified further actions needed to build a more reliable and sustainable emergency supply chain for the future, looking at both supply (including financing, manufacturing and distribution) and demand. (including better tracking of the number, locations and capacities of CHWs and their medical supply needs). Its recommendations include:
Establish clear points of responsibility at regional and national levels to ensure sufficient supply of PPE for frontline health workers;
Support low-income and lower-middle-income countries to scale up national and/or regional production of essential PPE; and
Ensure that each country has an inter-agency technical working group, including UN, NGO and private sector partners, on essential PPE to ensure routine availability and storage in emergencies.
More information about CAF-Africa is available at https://cafafrica.org.