Mahoko Kamatsuchi (Doctorate in Public Health, 2016) works as a Senior Health Specialist and Task Team Leader for the World Bank. Here, she talks about how her role has been involved in COVID-19 preparations since early February and the challenges that the Central African Republic (CAR) are facing.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your work?
I am based in Washington DC, and have been working from home during the COVID-19 restrictions which has been a blessing in disguise. I am able to spend more time with my family despite the emergency, and long nights with much coffee and WhatsApp calls with Bangui and colleagues from around the globe.
How have you been responding to the outbreak?
I am the Team Leader of the Health portfolio for the World Bank for the Central African Republic (CAR), and I am responsible for the COVID-19 project where the World Bank was among the first responders. We have already initiated the first preparedness initiatives from early February with the onset of COVID-19 transmission. The entire World Bank team has been working through sleepless nights to prepare COVID-19 projects. We are funding and working with the Ministry of Health and UN partners (especially through UNICEF and WHO for supply delivery) on the ground to supply the CAR with technical assistance, personal protective equipment (PPE), medicine, water and sanitation supplies, risk communication and community sensitization resources, and surveillance and diagnostic materials. This is still a challenge to bring into the country given the very difficult circumstances. As the diagnostic coverage capacity is steadily increasing, the number of apparent confirmed cases are soaring, a trend we also see in other countries.
How has your countries response to the outbreak affected your work?
Central African Republic is a landlocked country where the airports are now blocked. It has been a huge challenge to bring in the supplies and technical expertise needed to ensure the appropriate response is given to the extremely fragile, conflictive and impoverished country that CAR is. The challenges to bring in, deliver and distribute essential supplies and services to the people are enormous, unlike any other countries I have worked in around the globe.
How has LSHTM’s training helped you during this outbreak?
Courses on systematic reviews, and refresher courses on epidemiology and analysing health systems in sub-Saharan Africa really help to gauge and understand how best to respond as the COVID-19 transmission spreads.