Mobilizing the COVID-19 response in the DRC

May 4, 2020 by PATH

In the DRC, a new Presidential Task Force and Technical Secretariat are set to coordinate the country’s COVID-19 response.

Members of DRC's COVID-19 response in a training on digital tools. Photo: PATH/Trad Hatton

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, members of the COVID-19 response team train on digital tools to stay connected during the pandemic. Photo: PATH/Trad Hatton.

As countries take preventive measures against COVID-19, they must go beyond preparing health systems and health workers. Governments also need to establish new forums for rapid communication so decision-makers can respond in real time. The success of the response—and the welfare of millions—depends on it.

PATH is proud to support the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as they navigate these challenges and respond to the pandemic. Drawing on lessons learned from Ebola and measles outbreaks, President Felix Tshisekedi has taken early action, establishing two new coordination mechanisms that unite the DRC’s top epidemiologists and virologists.

The COVID-19 Technical Secretariat and the Presidential COVID-19 Task Force will help to guide the health system's response and inform broader political decisions.

The COVID-19 Technical Secretariat

Led by Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the new COVID-19 Technical Secretariat will direct the health system's response to the pandemic. Dr. Muyembe has been given autonomy over scientific and public health decisions—emphasizing the government’s belief that the response should be based in science above all else.

The secretariat will run in parallel to the Ministry of Health, allowing the ministry to focus on the country’s routine health needs and other ongoing outbreaks (measles, and the final vestiges of Ebola). This approach will help protect the country’s citizens from two looming threats: COVID-19 and potential shortages of health resources.

Building off the lessons and capacity of the Emergency Operations Center, this response will continue to build the country’s capacity and reputation as a leader in outbreak management in Africa.

The Presidential COVID-19 Task Force

A new Presidential COVID-19 Task Force will coordinate cross-sector decisions for the government at both the national and provincial levels. Led by Dr. Roger Kamba and a team of experts, this task force provides President Tshisekedi a direct line of oversight into the COVID-19 outbreak and the response coordination.

At the request of the Office of the President, and with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH’s offices are hosting the task force—providing office space, infrastructure, and the high-bandwidth connectivity needed to engage with technical experts, attend webinars, and access online gathering places for sharing global best practices.

Training of the Mobile Emergency Operations Center for COVID-19 in Ifiofa village, Kwilu, DRC. The MOEC spent three weeks in the field organizing the health zone response, collecting data, and performing contact tracing. Photo: PATH/Trad Hatton

PATH supported the deployment of a Mobile Emergency Operations Center in Kwilu province, providing training on case investigation, contact tracing, and other activities. Photo: PATH/Trad Hatton.

A deepening partnership

PATH opened its Kinshasa office to the Presidential Task Force and continues to support to the government of DRC in their response to COVID-19. And, in partnership with BlueSquare and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PATH also provides financial and technical assistance to the Secretariat for the rapid establishment of the national COVID-19 digital data collection, integration, and analysis system.

PATH provided technical equipment to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to support their COVID-19 Response. Photo: PATH/Yves Zinhindula

PATH provides technical equipment to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to support their COVID-19 Response. Photo: PATH/Yves Zinhindula.

In addition to these efforts, PATH is also:

  • Deploying a Mobile Emergency Operations Center in Kwilu province with a rapid response team to quickly identify contacts around the Kwilu’s first case (with support from Vulcan).
  • Supporting rapid response actions in the epicenter of Kinshasa, including case investigations, contact tracing, and communications in the most affected health zones of Gombe, Binza-Ozone and Nsele (with financial support from Resolve to Save Lives).
  • Training on contract tracing and case investigation for rapid response teams in Haut-Katanga and Lualaba. Haut-Katanga’s capital is Lubumbashi and is DRC’s second largest city. It is the country's economic engine and confirmed its first case on April 24.
  • Connecting the Presidential Task Force to Resolve to Save Lives’ global technical expertise to aid the development of a strategic communications plan for COVID-19, including video-conference between Resolve Director Tom Frieden and the Task Force.
  • Providing technical guidance to ANICiiS (the Ministry of Health's digital agency), for the implementation of WhatsApp Chatbot, a COVID-19 website, and mHero—a communication tool that connects the ministry with health workers. More than 33,000 health workers in Kinshasa have registered with this system already.
  • Advocating for greater resources and understanding of the medical oxygen availability and supply chain in the country.

At the end of April 2020, the DRC had passed 500 confirmed cases with over 90% of those at the epicenter in the capital city of Kinshasa. With the government at the fore, PATH continues to support their work in assessing and responding to COVID-19.