16 December 2020 | Informations
While the health crisis has not led to a complete interruption of care, it has highlighted the fragility of Niger’s health systems. Remarks made by Yacouba Nouhou, infectiologist and medical coordinator of the COVID-19 adaptation project of the Niamey RHC in Niger.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your work? From the first case of COVID, panic gripped some patients. Many, even some caregivers, were unaware of the disease. It was particularly difficult at the beginning, with some of our carers who were contact or positive cases, and therefore had to be confined. In order to cope with the situation, we spaced out the appointments with the patients by giving them more medication to limit the risk of contagion, while ensuring continuity of care. The provision of HIV treatment, the most basic and essential service, was thus maintained.
Were you worried about any patients? With the pandemic, the city of Niamey has been isolated from the region. The patients we were following outside Niamey could no longer enter the city. Giving them continued access to their treatment was a priority. When we had the means to contact them, we redirected them to other centres in the region, but some of them experienced treatment interruptions… This crisis exposed the fragility of our health care systems.
What lessons have you learned from this health crisis? We must not forget the progress we have made in recent years, on access to viral load, early detection of children. Quality monitoring of HIV/AIDS patients is essential, and we must continue to ensure it. With COVID-19, we were forced to slow down our activities, but the situation must gradually return to normal.
We must have the means to respect hygiene measures in order to protect ourselves from infection: the crisis has shown us the progress that still needs to be made, particularly on barrier gestures such as hand washing, a gesture to be passed on to our children. We must learn the lessons of this crisis in order to protect ourselves from all diseases.
And what the crisis has highlighted is the lack of protective devices: gloves, masks, soap, which we have too often lacked … To be able to equip the caregivers and protect the patients who come to our health centres, we will still need this equipment for years to come.