Responding to the COVID-19 outbreak from the lens of a frontline health worker
In Kiribati, UNICEF is supporting the government’s COVID-19 response efforts
“When we found out that COVID-19 was being transmitted in the community, we were taken by surprise!” says Katerine Tebwaki, a frontline health worker in Kiribati. “But we were fully ready to respond to the outbreak because of the technical support and supplies we’d received.”
Unlike the majority of the world, the remote Pacific island nation of Kiribati, was COVID-free for nearly two years, until January 2022 when it recorded its first COVID-19 community transmission.
But being COVID-19 free didn’t prevent the country from getting prepared. From the onset of the global pandemic, UNICEF has been supporting the government’s preparedness and response efforts, in part by providing essential health supplies. These include personal protective equipment (PPEs) such as gowns, masks, respirators, gloves, and face shields to ensure that health workers like Katerine had access to the health supplies they would need to keep themselves safe and protected.
Supplying PPEs alone isn’t enough though. It is essential that frontline health workers absolutely understand all aspects of being prepared to respond, so UNICEF also provided training, and Katerine took part.
“The medical supplies were of great help to our work, and the training was very informative and helpful,” said Katerine. “It really made me feel confident and ready to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The training sessions aimed to ensure that health workers were well equipped to provide healthcare services safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sessions included guidelines on how to use PPEs properly as well as how to prevent and control infections.
“We are thankful that the PPEs were provided before local transmission of COVID-19 in the community took place,” says Katerine. “It has helped us continue our services to the public while we are all protected at the same time.”
As well as the training and PPEs, UNICEF also provided tents to be used for screening purposes at the main hospital, and at healthcare facilities to ensure health workers and patients are safe from avoidable infections. Having a separate area like this also allows the health care facilities to continue to provide other essential health services as normal, including routine immunization.
Furthermore, UNICEF will continue to work closely with other partners to support the Kiribati Government in minimizing the spread of the virus and its impact on children, as well as the social services they rely on.