HPSS support to the COVID-19 response in Tanzania
The first COVID-19 infection case was reported in Tanzania on 17th March 2020. Since then the Health Promotion and System Strengthening Project (HPSS) funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by Swiss TPH was engaged in supporting the Government of Tanzania in the implementation of its COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan.
The Government of Tanzania (GoT) coordinates its COVID-19 preparedness and response plan through a multi-sectoral national task force. SDC supports these efforts through the HPSS project engaging in the Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) pillar of the Emergency Preparedness Task Force of the GoT.
HPSS reallocated an amount of up to CHF 222’000 to support the GoT in the COVID-19 response, out of which CHF 25’000 is dedicated to supporting Zanzibar.
The project is actively engaged in the Risk Communication and Community Engagement Pillar of the Emergency Response Plan by providing the following support:
The HPSS project together with other partners including UNICEF, IMMA Health and UNFPA are working on enhancing capacity of the current hotline and elevating it to a national call centre for the COVID-19 with additional human resources, working tools and technology to ensure that it is functioning properly and contributes to information to communities and health authorities. This is a formidable challenge as in recent days more than 250’000 calls have been directed to the national COVID-19 response hotline which has very limited capacity to attend to the incoming calls.
Awareness raising of the transmission of the disease and knowledge on prevention and timely treatment seeking among health workers and communities including the most vulnerable in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. To this effect the project printed 100’000 posters with different information on prevention, signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and it also arranged for the logistical distribution of the information material country-wide. HPSS also supported the airing of radio spots produced by the GoT and their broadcasting in both national and on local community radio stations.
The HPSS project also endeavours to help out the GoT with any transport needs that will be related to COVID-19 activities through the use of its project vehicles for central level activities and at the 8 HPSS zonal offices.
With these contributions to the national COVID-19 response the HPSS project is working with key national stakeholders to respond to the current health crisis in Tanzania and hopes to strengthen future epidemic resilience in the country.
In May 2020, the Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDGEC) Hon. Ummy Mwalimu launched the new “Afya Call Centre” for the Corona virus response hotline “199”.
HPSS jointly with IMA World Health and UNFPA supported the building of the hotline’s infrastructure and capacity.
The Call Centre was designed in a way to accommodate the needs of the country to respond to the pandemic: address community concerns, myths and lack of knowledge, as well as provide guidance regarding testing, care and treatment of COVID-19.
The technical features of the Call Centre include an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System for automated answers in order to free time for the operators for attending to the remaining calls. The IT system can technically accommodate 500 concurrent calls, and has the possibility to be connected with stations in other cities across Tanzania. The Afya Call Centre operates 24 hours a day with two shifts of 40 operators each.
Since establishing the new IT system the call centre substantially increased the capacities of the Ministry of Health to receive and respond to questions of the citizens on the COVID-19 health issues.