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CAF-Africa Provides Over 121 Million Pieces of PPE to Community Health Workers in Africa

Third round delivers nearly 40 million pieces of PPE to workers in 10 African countries.



A pharmacy assistant in Mozambique wears PPE as he prepares and packs shipments of essential medicines to be distributed. More than 121 million pieces of PPE have been distributed to community health workers since the beginning of the pandemic. (Photo by Denis Onyodi)

The Covid-19 Action Fund for Africa (CAF-Africa) is providing nearly 40 million additional pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to community health workers (CHWs) in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The self-organized collaborative effort among 30 organizations was formed in 2020, anchored by $10 million in funding from Direct Relief. Since its inception, the initiative has delivered more than 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 health priority areas such as child nutrition, maternal and child health, expanding access to family planning services, and enhancing infectious disease control for HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis – yet they are often the last in line to receive PPE.

Surgical face masks bound for Uganda and Mali are loaded onto aircraft in Shenzhen, China, on Sept. 6, 2020. The COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa has provided infusions of PPE since the beginning of the pandemic and continues to do so. (Direct Relief photo)

The initiative was created as a stop-gap to rapidly scale up procurement and delivery of PPE to CHWs, becoming the fifth-largest procurer of PPE in the world in 2020 and the only initiative specifically focused on CHWs. As this initiative winds down, CAF-Africa has distributed critical PPE to nearly 480,000 health workers across 18 African countries.

In addition to its funding, Direct Relief led the sourcing and ocean logistics to purchase the PPE and deliver it to African ports. Other CAF-Africa partners and national health ministries have led the PPE distribution within Africa and to the last mile.

“As Covid-19 cases continue and variants emerge, protection for 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 infusions of PPE.”

When CAF-Africa released its year one report in July 2021, organizations involved in the effort believed the effort was winding down. But with new variants and limited vaccine access in sub-Saharan Africa, the need for continued access to PPE remained critical. With over $3 million in new funding Trafigura Foundation, IZUMI Foundation, and Crown Family Philanthropies, CAF-Africa in this third round has been sending PPE to 10 African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe) providing additional protection to over 300,000 CHWs.

This new funding allowed CAF-Africa to procure and distribute 39.6 million more pieces of PPE, 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.

CAF-Africa coalition member Pandemic Action Network in January published a policy brief evaluating progress in global PPE distribution 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 the supply side (including financing, manufacturing and distribution) and the demand side (including improved tracking of the number, locations and capabilities of CHWs and their needs for medical supplies). Its recommendations include:

Establishing clear points of accountability at regional and country levels to ensure sufficient supplies of PPE for frontline health workers;

Supporting lower-income countries and lower-middle-income countries to scale up domestic and/or regional production of essential PPE; and

Ensuring every country has an interagency technical working group, including United Nations, NGO, and private sector partners, on essential PPE to ensure routine and stockpile availability for emergencies.

More information about CAF-Africa is available at https://cafafrica.org.

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