Dr Muna A Aden (MSc Control of Infectious Diseases, 2019) works as an Infectious Disease Control Specialist with the COVID-19 Taskforce in Nairobi, Kenya. Here, she explains how she has been responding to the outbreak and the nationwide response from Kenya.
How has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your work?
The pandemic has not only shifted our focus from other infectious disease programmes but also changed how we worked as a lot of our meetings and training is now done remotely. This lends an element of convenience for some but the overall reduction of social interactions as we work towards reducing the chances of our staff contracting the virus has also affected the mental well-being of others. We have regular activities aimed at decompressing and supporting each other during this trying period.
How has LSHTM’s training helped you during this outbreak?
Some of the skills and knowledge about infectious disease epidemiology and designing disease control programmes I learnt at the School has helped me immensely in my work. That involves analysing data from the field and using the results to recommend practical, sustainable solutions for the vulnerable populations in our city. It’s a challenging period for everyone and I am very grateful to be part of the efforts aimed at reducing the effects of the pandemic in my home country.
How have you been responding to the outbreak?
We have an incident management system in place and our response is multi-pronged involving case-management, surveillance and risk-communication amongst other response components. We then use data from all these departments to implement interventions in the different sub-counties and health-facilities within our city. At the sub-county level, we have rapid response teams who are involved in responding to alerts, contact tracing and follow-up.
How has your country’s response to the outbreak affected your work?
There have been a lot of efforts aimed at flattening the curve in my country and initially, we had a nationwide lockdown with restricted inter-city travel. We recently have been gradually opening up and this led to an increase in case numbers in early July. Nairobi is the epi-centre of the pandemic in Kenya with more than 60 per cent of cases being recorded in the city. However, Nairobi’s epidemic curve appears to have peaked in late July before experiencing a gradual decline in August. We are currently working on improving our testing services, risk communication and community engagement efforts to keep our numbers low.
What is the most important lesson you feel that COVID-19 has taught you about health systems/or on a personal level?
I have learnt that with functional health systems, a country can leverage already existing structures and systems in responding to emergencies efficiently. Building and improving on our health-systems should be a continuous and constant endeavour, not just a goal of utmost and immediate priority when pandemics like COVID-19 strike.