Status: Completed response

As part of the UK Emergency Medical Team, UK-Med responded to a call from the WHO and Zambia Ministry of Health to help coordinate and plan its COVID-19 response.

UK EMT members worked with the Ministry of Health through the Zambia National Public Health Institute to help develop and roll out the national COVID-19 strategy.

When the team first arrived in Zambia in April, the majority of outbreaks were taking place in hotspots around major cities such as Lusaka and Kitwe, as well as border points between Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The situation escalated over the following months, with community transmission of the virus identified in every province. In response, the UK EMT team refocused its efforts to ensure that vital standard operating procedures (SOPs) were created and disseminated to all ten provinces, ensuring a consistent countrywide approach.

They have also created and delivered a COVID-19 training curriculum, supported facilities with infection prevention and control (IPC), and created a tool to assess oxygen needs and availability across the country, teaching national MoH staff how to use it.

“We’ve been helping to push the key messages to wash hands, avoid mixing between households, encouraging people to stay at home if they are symptomatic and get tested, especially if they are a key worker.” Ngoni Nyambawaro - Team Lead, UK-Med

How we’ve helped

The UK EMT’s key activities to support Zambia’s COVID-19 response have included:

coordination, planning and monitoring at country and provincial levels

developing national guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) on all aspects of COVID-19 management, including IPC, management in schools, and triage and assessment

helping to disseminate guidelines and SOPs across the country

creating training materials and delivering mentoring and training sessions at health facilities

supporting COVID-19 case management and sharing knowledge about the latest innovations and research

undertaking risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) activities

training ‘Point of Entry (PoE)’ border control teams in COVID-19 preparedness and response

The response in detail

Developing guidelines 

Based on WHO resources, the UK EMT team has helped develop and disseminate a substantial number of standard operating procedures for the COVID-19 response in Zambia. These include guidance on IPC, WASH, cleaning, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), the use of masks and safe waste management.

Infection prevention and control

The team has created training on infection prevention and control (IPC) for health workers, and people working for authorities including the police, immigration services and local councils. They have also provided IPC mentoring to frontline staff.

They have also carried out readiness assessments at points of entry into the country, and supported them to ensure appropriate COVID-19 measures are in place.

Home management

The team has supported the government to adopt a home management and community care model for COVID-19. This means that people with asymptomatic and mild cases are now monitored at home. They have also worked with community health workers to revise the guidelines and conduct more robust training on contact tracing, safe and dignified burials and community engagement.

Oxygen assessments

Another crucial project has been around conducting oxygen assessments in key health facilities and hospitals. This has involved identifying shortfalls in capacity, where facilities may struggle to meet oxygen demands if the infection rates continue to rise.

Learning from other UK EMT international responses and partners on the ground, the team developed an assessment tool and presented it to the Ministry of Health and WHO, with a plan to support oxygen assessment in at least six provinces.

Risk communication and community engagement

Supporting risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) activities in Zambia has been a key element of the team’s work. This has included supporting partners to review training materials on COVID-19 awareness, helping to disseminate messaging guidelines, and working with local leaders to engage their communities.

The future

We hope the important work the team have carried out will have a long-lasting effect on strengthening the health system across Zambia.

We’re grateful to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for UK Aid funding from the British people to fund this important response.