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Five ways flexible philanthropy went further for COVID-19

May 26, 2022 by Koren Temple-Perry

PATH’s philanthropic partners helped policymakers in Africa move quickly for sustainable, effective pandemic response.

A midwife conducts general health checks for expectant mothers at Mpigi Health Centre IV’s maternity clinic in Mpigi Town, Uganda. Photo: PATH/Will Boase.

A midwife conducts general health checks for expectant mothers at Mpigi Health Centre IV’s maternity clinic in Mpigi Town, Uganda. Photo: PATH/Will Boase.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, extensive, complex, and urgent public health needs outweighed available resources. PATH leaders in our Africa offices fielded concerns from partner governments about the increasing need for COVID-19 response, from diagnostics and surveillance to contact tracing and strategic coordination.

“But we didn’t have a budget for COVID-19 response. And we didn’t have time to follow the traditional process of applying for grants and waiting for a response, especially without any guarantee of funds,” says Douglas Waudo, PATH Regional Advocacy, Communications and Media Officer for Eastern & Southern Africa.

“Thankfully, PATH has a reserve of flexible funds that we are able to allocate to unexpected and urgent needs. These funds were critical to our COVID-19 response management, leadership, and governance activities.”

This unique, flexible funding mechanism comes without donor restrictions and can be used for emergency response, research and development, and general operations, among other things.

Unlike the majority of PATH funding, which comes from governments and large foundations and is usually earmarked for specific programs, projects, or types of work, flexible donations allow us to build on existing projects, respond to real-time needs, or pursue novel ideas.

This important resource is made possible by philanthropic supporters who trust PATH to use donations where they are needed most.

Thanks to these philanthropists, PATH was able to support COVID-19 response in Ethiopia and Uganda in five key ways:

1. Training health care workers

The government of Ethiopia implemented various prevention and control efforts at the start of the pandemic, but gaps remained in the country’s COVID-19 emergency response. For instance, many health care workers were undertrained in infection prevention and control.

PATH worked with the country’s national emergency operations center and the Addis Ababa City Administration Health Bureau to provide the necessary training for health care workers. PATH supported efforts to integrate COVID-19 infection prevention and control content into existing health program trainings on maternal and child health, early childhood development, and immunization, among others.

2. Preventing and controlling infections

Many health facilities in Ethiopia lacked adequate personal protective equipment and other supplies for infection prevention and control. Additionally, many health facilities were not up to date with safety practices for infectious diseases. With support from PATH, the emergency operations center helped procure the appropriate equipment and implement safety practices. This included optimizing space for triage, ensuring compliance with isolation procedures, and strengthening and supporting health care workers.

3. Educating and raising awareness in the community

Misinformation and lack of awareness were major obstacles in Ethiopia’s COVID-19 response, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. To combat misinformation and strengthen public health messaging, PATH helped create and distribute 500 posters and 3,000 brochures conveying key COVID-19 information in local languages. In addition, PATH held community orientations on COVID-19 safety at select schools in Addis Ababa.

4. Leveraging media to enhance COVID-19 safety

In Uganda, PATH partnered with the Kampala Capital City Authority, which oversees health service provision in the capital, to promote good practices around COVID-19.

As part of these efforts, local policymakers leveraged national media outlets to bring effective public health messaging directly to communities.

In June 2021, PATH and the KCCA planned media engagements at NTV and NBS—two leading Ugandan television stations—featuring two public health officials from KCCA. On local talk shows, the experts discussed COVID-19 public safety and risk information, prevention strategies, and treatment options for those infected with COVID-19.

5. Reaching more people with social media

Following the national talk show appearances, PATH’s media partners launched social media campaigns to continue disseminating the public health messaging. The campaigns were highly effective, reaching more than 61,000 Ugandans through Facebook alone. YouTube campaigns were shared widely—reaching more than 17,000 viewers.

The rights solutions at the right time

These recent efforts in Uganda and Ethiopia showcase what is possible when supporters trust PATH to allocate funds as needed—in this case, enlisting local public health experts who are best positioned to understand the community’s changing needs. Furthermore, these funds had an impact far beyond COVID-19 response, as they were used to stabilize other essential health services.

For decades, flexible gifts to PATH have helped meet urgent needs around the world. And while PATH has always worked with local stakeholders, we are increasingly placing them in the lead, stepping back to support them as they manage their own public health efforts. This local capacity-building makes each intervention more sustainable than the last.

To learn more about PATH’s work, click here. If you become a PATH supporter, your gift will help protect decades of progress made in health equity across the 70 countries where we work. Click here to donate today.

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