Updates from the Field: Somalia FETP Addresses COVID-19 in IDP Camps

In April 2020, the TEPHINET Secretariat, in partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), introduced COVID-19 Emergency Capacity Building Grants (ECBGs) for Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs) responding to the pandemic. The grants aimed to strengthen FETPs for COVID-19 response and build capacity for future pandemics. In total, nineteen FETPs were awarded funding totaling more than $380,000. These projects ranged from developing online courses for health officials to strengthening COVID-19 response capacity for surveillance, analysis, and contact tracing. 

One recipient, the Somalia FETP, focused their ECBG activities around COVID-19 response in internally displaced person (IDP) camps. With more than 2.6 million IDPs in the country, the FETP saw a need to implement COVID-19 surveillance and response activities among this vulnerable population.  

The proposed project aimed to maximize COVID-19 awareness and prevention, and minimize spread, among 20 percent of IDPs in Mogadishu by training frontline health staff and community health workers, distributing hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment (PPE), and providing education on COVID-19 disease prevention and control measures to IDP camp residents. 

As a first step, 40 frontline health workers, including 15 FETP fellows, were trained on how to effectively engage community members in preventive measures (i.e., quarantine, social distancing), and educate community members and health workers on COVID-19 transmission, prevention, and control. The project utilized a “training of trainers” model whereby participants from this workshop would then teach local community health workers, who would ultimately continue conducting education and prevention efforts within their camp.  Overall, education seminars were planned for seven IDP camps in the Banaadir region, and health workers distributed information, education, and communication (IEC) materials, hand hygiene supplies, and PPE. 

The project also engaged camp leaders in prevention and control efforts, calling on them to encourage residents to comply with COVID-19 rules and restrictions. ECBG activities helped strengthen the FETP’s relationship with these communities, which ultimately led to success. Following completion of the project, community leaders were able to continue efforts to increase social distancing and mask wearing, and improve sanitation. With the help of health workers, leaders were also able to continue quarantining camp residents with COVID-19 symptoms, and ultimately saw a significant decrease in symptomatic infections during the second wave of COVID-19.