Chapter 1: COVID-19
Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of our international development programme, though some initiatives have been affected more than others.
During the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak back in March 2020, SG funded projects were asked to undertake rapid risk assessments to report on the current and anticipated impacts of the pandemic, and what changes would need to be made to the initiatives in order for them to continue safely. Given the importance of their work, we were keen to make sure that as many projects as possible were able to continue and so each project was reviewed on a case by case basis.
Unfortunately, due to the impacts of the pandemic, some of our international development initiatives have had to be paused. Examples include the work by Police Scotland on gender-based violence, improving child protection and supporting governance in Malawi and Zambia, and the Comic Relief Levelling the Field Initiative on improving the economic wellbeing of women and girls in all three of our African partner countries. However, the majority of our ID funded projects have been able to continue. Many have had to adapt to allow activity to continue safely and support efforts to combat infections. Some of these adaptations have involved pivoting existing funds to purchase PPE or digital infrastructure.
Furthermore, to date, additional funding has been given to the Kids OR initiative in Zambia for PPE; St. John Scotland in Malawi for PPE; the University of Glasgow and Malawi College of Medicine to procure COVID-19 test kits; and the University of Glasgow MalDent project to purchase digital devices and data bundles for remote teaching at the Malawi College of Medicine. Some of these responses to COVID-19 are highlighted in more detail below.
In addition to supporting projects in our development programmes, the Scottish Government has also partnered with UNICEF, to support the COVID-19 response and vaccine preparedness in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia. An award for £2 million, equally split between the three countries will help UNICEF improve the health and well-being for vulnerable groups, particularly women, adolescents and children, by supporting increased community resilience to COVID-19 through the provision of essential services. In Malawi, this includes increased knowledge on COVID-19 protection; mentoring of health workers on infection prevention; and the distribution of oxygen to paediatric and maternity wards. In Rwanda this will support remote learning for children, as well as infection prevention when schools are open, and provide health facilities with adequate hygiene facilities and increase capacity for COVID-19 infection prevention. In Zambia, multi-sector cash grants and support for healthcare provision, including immunisation, vitamin A supplementation and HIV care, will be supported.
Moving towards sustainability: strengthening rural health facilities, upskilling providers and developing mentoring capacity to support roll-out of cervical cancer ‘screen and treat’ services across Malawi (MALSCOT) – Edinburgh University and Nkhoma CCAP Hospital Malawi
The MALSCOT project builds on previous partnerships between Malawi and Scotland to deliver same day cervical cancer ‘screen and treat’ programmes across Northern, Central and Southern regions of Malawi. It contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3: Good Health and Wellbeing; 10: Reduce inequalities; and 17: Partnerships for the Goals by developing effective mentoring tools, strengthening health professional skills, and extending services to rural health facilities in Malawi.
Over the last year, this project has had to adapt in order to continue delivering vital health services to women and girls in Malawi. Although the numbers of women attending the clinics has reduced because of social distancing, anxiety surrounding the virus, and other types of COVID restrictions, more than 11,000 women attended a MALSCOT clinic. The project has also been able to start screening at several additional health centres.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a key challenge for the project was delivering training to health professionals. The project worked hard to identify workarounds and since, has been providing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) via an online symposium and training platform, and a Whatsapp group has been established to share best practice. These digital adaptations has kept the MALSCOT team engaged and provided support throughout the pandemic, despite geographical distances.
Additionally, in order to operate safely, the project required additional PPE. The team therefore reallocated funding within its existing budget to meet these needs. The majority of this additional PPE was produced locally, which was welcomed by local communities. This support has enabled the clinics to continue to operate and safely deliver vital health services during a time of global crisis.
Towards a Dental School for Malawi: The MalDent project
– University of Glasgow and College of Medicine University of Malawi
This project’s primary aim is to establish a Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree programme at the University of Malawi College of Medicine (CoM), to enable Malawi to train its own cadre of dental surgeons. This includes: the development of a curriculum and staff strategy; delivery of teaching; and the design of a dental teaching facility on the Blantyre campus. The secondary aim of this project is to develop a national Oral Health Policy and Implementation Strategy through joint collaboration between clinical and academic staff in Scottish dental schools; the School of Public Health & Family Medicine at the University of Malawi College of Medicine; WHO Africa; and the Malawi Government Ministry of Health. The final aim is to establish a programme for prevention of dental disease in children, based upon Scotland’s Childsmile model. This project supports SDGs 3: Good Health and Well-Being and 4: Quality Education.
Currently in its second year, COVID-19 has impacted on the delivery of teaching and
assessment for the established Bachelor of Dental Surgery. With COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of educational institutions, the CoM identified a need to deliver teaching remotely. However, major barriers to delivering teaching online in Malawi include unreliable Wi-Fi for students in their home settings, as well as the cost of expensive data bundles that are needed to access online teaching. Moreover, around 25% of students at the CoM had no access to a digital device at the start of the pandemic. To overcome these challenges and ensure all students would have access to online learning, the project pivoted some of its existing funding, and received an additional grant from the Scottish Government to purchase digital devices and data bundles for the CoM. The former Principal of the College of Medicine was able to negotiate a competitive contract for data bundles which allows these to be provided to students free of charge by the College. With these two major steps forward, teaching is once more underway and Malawi’s medical students are progressing with their studies.
Coffee Market Building for People and Prosperity (CoPP) – Challenges Worldwide
The CoPP project delivers economic strengthening and diversification in rural agri-businesses and coffee communities in Western and Southern Rwanda. The project’s objectives are to improve the business knowledge of coffee cooperative management through tailored, accredited training that works with communities to overcome systemic barriers to growth and livelihood generation. This includes assistance to access international markets and farming quality methods as well as the promotion of Rwandan coffee in-country and abroad through representation and a coordinated communications strategy. The project supports SDGs 1: No Poverty; 5: Gender Equality; 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; 10: Reduced Inequalities and 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.
Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the following economic challenges of the global coffee industry, the Rwandan sector was significantly affected. The outbreak caused delays to international trade flows, changes in market demands,
cancelled contracts, and price fluctuations. There was an urgent need to respond so the project and reallocate funds to provide bespoke support to each coffee cooperative whose operations and market access has been impacted by the pandemic. As a result, a three-day, COVID compliant (negative testing, masks and socially distanced), training course in Kigali was delivered in September 2020, which supported all eight cooperatives focused on green coffee contracts, export operations and logistics.
Topics and skills covered included:
- Green coffee samples preparation, different labelling/tags and samples documents
- Elements and differences between EU and USA green coffee contracts
- Understanding the Rwandan export process including hands-on practice processing export documents
- Identifying and overcoming export challenges during COVID-19
Nyamagabe Alba Project – WaterAID
This project aims to reverse the poor hygiene and sanitation situation in Nyamagabe, Rwanda by improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in communities and schools, with a focus on women, girls, disabled people and elderly groups. Particularly important at this time, the project supports hygiene and sanitation services through existing community structures, such as Community Hygiene Clubs, School Hygiene Clubs, and micro finance institutions to support vulnerable households access loans. By supporting the community to identify their own solutions to the water and sanitation problems facing their schools, the project aims to ensure there long-term availability and sustainability. This project contributes to SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic the project needed to re-design its delivery plan to continue its implementation and ensure the health and safety of staff, partners and beneficiaries as per the guidelines issued by WaterAid and the Government of Rwanda. The project is well positioned to respond and help stop the spread of COVID-19. Through community campaign work, it helps to promote best practice for protecting against coronavirus, as demonstrated by their mass public hygiene behaviour change campaign, which reached over 230,000 people. The project also supports the district in the coordination of their COVID-19 responses and helps to identify the groups most at risk.
Making Agriculture a Business – Christian Aid Scotland, JCP Zambia and CHAZ
The overall aim of this project is to contribute towards improved livelihood and economic resilience of farmers/entrepreneurs, especially women and marginalized Groups. This work has two pathways: 1) empowering farmers and entrepreneurs to effectively harness business opportunities for economic growth by acquiring the relevant business skills, organizational capacity and access to resources; and 2) contributing to the structural and socio-cultural environment to sustain their business and be supported by government policies. This project contributes to SDGs 1: No Poverty; 2: Zero Hunger; and 7: Affordable and clean energy, by using solar irrigation technologies as a source of water and energy.
Due to COVID-19, the project’s community meetings and Saving Groups were no longer able to meet. In order to continue, this project therefore had to adapt. Large meetings were replaced by community radio programs, and smaller groups that complied with local Zambian restrictions were set up. Remote supervision was also introduced for some activities and other meetings were moved to online platforms. The project also pivoted existing funding to support COVID-19 mitigation measures for project staff and beneficiaries, such as providing PPE and hand-washing equipment. Handwashing basins, soaps, and hand sanitizer were placed at all demonstration sites.
First Aid and Renewable Energy – The Big First Aid Project and First Aid Africa
This project provides learning resources and direct training to train First Aiders in Zambia. Working together with the Ministry of Health, First Aid Responders at 10 hotspots (identified by Government statistics) are trained for road traffic safety. It will also provide high quality solar systems to three hospitals. It contributes to SDGs 3: Good Health and Well-Being; 4: Quality Education; 7: Affordable and Clean Energy; and 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, while also taking into account SDG 5: Gender Equality; 14: Climate Action; and 17: Partnerships to achieve to Goals.
Being able to deliver training is an important part of this project, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic there was limited access to trainee groups and equipment, which impacted on the delivery of the project. After an initial reduction in the total number of trainees, the project signed a new agreement with the Ministry of Health, outlining how they could deliver the work
safely. Training courses were adjusted to enable social distancing, this included the wearing of masks and the provision of training in a sanitised environment. The project also continued to develop online resources to provide better distance-learning opportunities. A Psychological First Aid (PFA) online training package was developed to focus on improving mental health first aid response as people adapt to a new lifestyle in light of COVID-19.
The project also invested time to support Zambian organisations responding to COVID-19 through established partnerships with the private sector and government, including launching a 300 page public health reference guide for 10 key industries (in partnership with Prospero Zambia). In partnership with the private sector, the project was able to provide PPE and oxygen concentrators for distribution through the Ministry of Health.