United Nations

Combating COVID-19 in Darfur: A Global Calamity

Pakistan Filed Hospital-11 Taking Significant Preventive Measures Against COVID-19

Since December 2019, the world is facing a rampant, one of the biggest global health crises in history, which is shaping up to be the biggest public health calamity in a century. An unexpected and life-threatening disease outbreak eventuated, patients with unexplained pneumonia had been found in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China. The World Health Organization confirmed the diagnosis and named the pathogen SARS-CoV‐2. The disease caused by SARS-CoV‐2 is called Coronavirus disease (COVID‐19). The virus is highly infectious and pathogenic, causing human‐to‐human transmission, it spread in a blink of an eye and within no time grasped the whole world in its vicious claws. In this very modern epoch of medical evolution where we claim that mankind has the cure for everything, yet to our surprise, this monstrous disease has stunned us and proven that man’s knowledge is not enough and we must explore further.

Thousands of people are getting affected by and dying of this deadly virus every day; Pakistan and Sudan are no exception and are also battling this pandemic. Though the number of deaths in Pakistan is quite less (around 20,186 positive cases and about 462 deaths till May 4, 2020), this could be attributed to: fewer individuals being tested due to lack of testing kits, better immune system of people or comparatively better habits with regards to washing hands etc. mainly because of availability of abundance of water resources and weather conditions. But all these optimistic conclusions will be tested in the days to come. Similarly, Sudan, an underdeveloped country suffering a humanitarian crisis since 2008, with its limited resources and scarce healthcare facilities is also faced with this pandemic. Out of many suspected cases, more than 70 people have been tested positive for COVID-19. There have been 5 deaths so far, and the number of COVID-19 patients is increasing every day. The lesser number of Coronavirus cases in Sudan may be attributed to: fewer individuals being tested due to lack of testing kits and/or better immune system of people.

In the current situation which entails considerable risks, the role of healthcare providers has been globally acknowledged as vital. In UNAMID Pakistani healers are at the forefront in combating COVID-19. Pakistan Field Hospital-11 (PFH-11) deployed in Sudan is the biggest and best medical facility across UNAMID and very well reputed in the upper echelons. History has witnessed time and again that whenever and wherever the services of Pakistan Army Healers are called for, they are always ready to risk their lives in saving others as an obligation towards Pakistan Army and their service to humanity. While working on an international scale and representing Pakistan, the responsibility to handle COVID-19 is enormous and challenging. Ever since this outbreak was in its initial stages, PFH-11 took immediate steps, and most effective preventive measures against COVID-19 at Kabkabiya Team Site and Forward Surgical Team (FST) Zalingei. For a world reeling from Coronavirus outbreak, these measures hold lessons and strategies to prevent this global pandemic. The measures that have been taken in this regard are as under:

a. COVID-19 Control Teams. These teams have been constituted by PFH-11. Each team consists of the following members:

▪ Medical specialist (COVID-19 coordinator).

▪ Anesthetist/intensivist

▪ Public health specialist

▪ Pathologist

▪ Deputy Commanding Officer

▪ Logistics officer 

Medical officer (Training of Trainers qualified)

b. Appointment of COVID-19 Coordinators. Officers have been nominated as COVID-19 Coordinators by PFH-11 at Kabkabiya Team Site and FST Zalingei. They are to mainly carry out necessary coordination and work out amicable solutions in the event of an outbreak of a pandemic (God forbid) in the mission area.

c. Establishment of Quarantine Facilities. Quarantine facilities have been established in hospital premises at Pakistan Field Hospital Level II+ Kabkabiya and FST Zalingei. Standing operating procedures made in this regard are:

▪   14-day quarantine starting from the day of contact are mandatory.

▪ Quarantine of all ranks falling back from   relieve/rotation and annual leave.

▪  Separate modules, washrooms along with provision of bedding, clothing and utensils are being made available for quarantined individuals.

▪    Catering services are being provided at quarantine facilities instead of messes.

▪  Record of all individuals under quarantine are maintained in a register.

d. Establishment of Isolation Ward. A separate isolation ward has been established for suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the hospital complex. Moreover, recreational facilities like television and the internet have also been provided to reduce the element of stress among patients. Additional space inside the hospital has also been earmarked in case of an increase in the number of patients.

e. Establishment of Fever Clinics. Three fever clinics for screening of individuals entering Team Site/Level II+ hospital have been established, where temperature of all individuals is checked before entering the Team Site. Record of all individuals entering Team Site/hospital complex along with their body temperature is also being maintained. The locations of these clinics are listed below:

▪ Team Site main gate (established by Pakbatt-8).

▪ Pakistan Field Hospital gate (established by Pakistan Level II+ hospital).

▪ Team Site helipad (established by Pakistan Level II+ hospital).

f. Hand Washing Facilities. Hand sanitization/washing facilities have been provided at:

▪ Hospital entrance.

▪ Pakistan Field Hospital gate.

▪ Team Site helipad.

▪ Messes.

g. Personal Protective Equipment Kits. Personal protective equipment (PPE) kits have also been made available including face masks, goggles, and caps, etc.

h. Provision of Medical Services to Civilian Populace. Provision of medical services to civilian populace of Kabkabiya has been completely suspended since March 18, 2020 as a preventive measure against COVID-19.

i. Display of Posters Regarding COVID-19. Awareness posters on COVID-19 and SOPs on infection control protective measures have been displayed at prominent places in the hospital.

j. Training on COVID-19. A series of lectures and workshops are being conducted by COVID coordinators and Training of Trainers (TOT) qualified officers to troops in small groups on a weekly basis. UNAMID staff and all troops are being trained on measures for their own safety, safe management of cases, and proper donning and doffing of PPE.

k. Restriction of Movement of Military Personnel. Movement of military personnel to and from Kabkabiya Team Site has been restricted.

l. Social Distancing and Ban on Gatherings. Emphasis on social distancing and non-essential gatherings has been imposed.

m. Workshop on Corona Stress Management. To improve the mental health status of UNAMID staff, workshop on Corona stress management was also held. The interactive sessions included measures such as:

▪ Exercise

▪ Book reading

▪ Good sleep

▪ Good diet

▪ Video call with family and friends

▪ Explore hidden talents within

▪ Pursue your hobbies

▪ Positive thinking

As the world is facing a global pandemic, UNAMID staff working in different sections have shown extreme confidence in the proficiency of Pakistan Army doctors for taking the initiative of timely and significant preventive measures against COVID-19. The endeavors of Pakistani healers were also applauded internationally through tweets from United Nations Headquarters and UNAMID and by publication of PFH-11 brief report on COVID-19 on UNAMID’s website. By the grace of Allah Almighty, Pakistan Field Hospital-11 is up keeping its long, rewarding and cherishable legacy not only by taking exceptionally valuable and robust steps to tackle this deadly virus with resilience and courage but also by raising awareness against COVID-19 time and again across UNAMID. Moreover, all ranks of Pakistan Army Contingent in Darfur, despite being far away from their loved ones and homeland with an indefinite timeline of going back, are fully determined to work for the call of duty, keeping their own worries as a tertiary after the health of UNAMID peacekeepers and staff, keeping the flag of Pakistan fluttering high. The government and people in Pakistan are also expected to follow the guidelines and restrictions to fight against this pandemic as the examples of other countries are in front of us. China tackled it very well and controlled the pandemic and the resulting fatalities, whereas Italy, U.S. and a few other European countries could not tackle it well and are suffering from the perilous outcomes of this pandemic. The choice lies with the Pakistani Government as well as the people to follow the footsteps of their choice, keeping the peculiar economic and social structure of country and people in mind.  The Coronavirus pandemic is by its nature a global health crisis, COVID has taught us that once a pandemic starts, it’s very hard to control but if timely preventive measures are taken, that is one way to mitigate the likelihood of this current and recurrent pandemics.


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