The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we are all bound by the same destiny. Doctors with Africa CUAMM acted to launch an emergency intervention from Italy to Africa.
COVID-19 AND GLOBAL HEALTH:
INTERNATIONAL HEALTH COOPERATION IN TIMES OF COVID-19
In Africa, data on confirmed cases of and deaths caused by COVID-19 have been vastly underestimated. There are many reasons for this, including the widespread unavailability of tests and – even more problematic – the lack of systems for civil registration and vital statistics such as Italy’s National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) for keeping records of births, deaths and the cause of the latter. For example, South Sudan has done a total of about 300,000 COVID-19 tests, while Italy did over 1 million tests daily at the height of the pandemic. According to WHO data, Africa has reported around 250,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic; yet only six of Africa’s 54 countries have reliable systems for registering deaths and their causes. In South Africa, a significant proportion of the number of excess deaths recorded since the start of the crisis – 300,000 – is likely attributable to COVID-19. Thus it is important to exercise caution and avoid making ill-considered affirmations about the supposed lesser impact of COVID-19 on Africa (a conjecture put forth by numerous media outlets). To prevent the emergence of new and dangerous variants in Africa, its population must be vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccine patents should be suspended, and investments should be made in testing, epidemic surveillance systems and registration systems.In Africa, data on confirmed cases of and deaths caused by COVID-19 have been vastly underestimated. There are many reasons for this, including the widespread unavailability of tests and – even more problematic – the lack of systems for civil registration and vital statistics such as Italy’s National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) for keeping records of births, deaths and the cause of the latter. For example, South Sudan has done a total of about 300,000 COVID-19 tests, while Italy did over 1 million tests daily at the height of the pandemic. According to WHO data, Africa has reported around 250,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic; yet only six of Africa’s 54 countries have reliable systems for registering deaths and their causes. In South Africa, a significant proportion of the number of excess deaths recorded since the start of the crisis – 300,000 – is likely attributable to COVID-19. Thus it is important to exercise caution and avoid making ill-considered affirmations about the supposed lesser impact of COVID-19 on Africa (a conjecture put forth by numerous media outlets). To prevent the emergence of new and dangerous variants in Africa, its population must be vaccinated, COVID-19 vaccine patents should be suspended, and investments should be made in testing, epidemic surveillance systems and registration systems.
COVID-19 IN ITALY:
SIDE BY SIDE WITH ITALY’S MOST VULNERABLE
Doctors with Africa CUAMM has worked in support of Italy’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign since June 2021, partnering with the Veneto Region, the local health authority “ULSS 6 Euganea”, and the Diocese of Padua to set up Padua’s first volunteer-run vaccination hub. Located in Rubano, Padua, and staffed by around 190 dedicated volunteers, the hub operated for 234 days to administer COVID-19 vaccines, ultimately getting more than 48,000 shots into arms, including first, second and third (booster) doses. The intervention was part of a broader project called “Italian Response to COVID-19” that took place in 19 health facilities in 6 Italian regions with the goal of improving hygiene infrastructure and practices, patient assistance, and personnel protection and efficiency.
“A VACCINE FOR ALL OF US”
The data shows that African countries come in last place in terms of the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered to the overall population. Indeed, WHO data as of April 2022 reported that only 16% of the African population were fully vaccinated, while 21% had received at least one dose. The continent’s low vaccine coverage is also a global security issue, so pushing for effective vaccination campaigns there is also a way to help limit the spread of new variants.
From the outset, Doctors with Africa CUAMM’s “A Vaccine for All of Us” campaign was devised as a support to local healthcare services (which were already fragile prior to the pandemic) at both the center and peripheral levels in the most remote districts and health centers, as well as in communities. The main goal continues to be that of improving health service delivery, increasing its availability, quality and use.
MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH
THE CRUCIAL ROLE PLAYED BY TRAINING
Training health personnel is a crucial way of improving and strengthening both the quality of care and health service delivery capacity.
In addition to the training done every day by Doctors with Africa CUAMM personnel while working alongside local health workers and authorities, CUAMM also held numerous ongoing education courses in 2021, with the participation of some 2,915 individuals including community agents, nurses, midwives, doctors and paramedics.
In 2021, training activities led to diplomas for 92 health professionals, including 36 doctors who graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the Catholic University of Mozambique in Beira.
FUNDRAISING IN ITALY
CUAMM support groups are made up of volunteers, many of whom are development workers who have returned from missions in the countries where CUAMM is active and decided to channel their enthusiasm and energies to help make Africa’s voice heard in every corner of Italy. These volunteers are enormously important for all they do to promote and support outreach initiatives and events as well as “special projects” to provide health prevention and assistance to the poorest groups in Italian society.
In recent years our International Relations division has become a strategic keystone for Doctors with Africa CUAMM. Its aim is to foster the development of new relationships and associations with other actors engaged in international development. The latter group includes a growing number of private foundations, some of which with ties to private entities and others to corporations with social responsibility aims. Doctors with Africa CUAMM now has many projects and initiatives underway with such international partners in each of the countries where we are active; they support our work alongside, and sometimes in integration with, our more traditional development cooperation donors and help advance CUAMM’s overall strategy. These partnerships and associated projects are fostered further with meetings that also involve other institutions, foundations, universities, professional groups and private citizens in the challenge launched by CUAMM’s strategic plan, helping in turn to put a more global spotlight on our organization’s activities.
More specifically, in 2022 CUAMM’s International
ON THE FRONT LINE
Doctors with Africa CUAMM has launched a project in support of 25 religious congregations working on the front line to help manage hospitals and health centers in 23 African countries; its goal is to provide them with health training and technical assistance. We also help strengthen relations between the congregations, governments and local ministries. In 2021, technical assistance missions were carried out in three centers in Togo and one in Zambia; further missions are planned in 2022.
CUAMM provided training in the following areas: Health facility management, health facility administration, project management, international fundraising.
WHERE WE WORK
EVENTS IN 2021
HEALTH IS GLOBAL
Doctors with Africa CUAMM shows its commitment to advancing people’s right to health in a range of ways, including through educational and awareness-raising initiatives. We are convinced, in fact, that helping familiarize young people, doctors and health professionals with development and cooperation issues can lead to both a more just world and more responsible medical practices. That’s why we organize two residential training courses every year at CUAMM’s Padua headquarters, with 220 hours of lectures for medical residents and doctors from across Italy who are interested in learning more about health issues in developing nations – from public health to infectious diseases, and gynecology to pediatrics. Some will want to take part in order to prepare for a possible mission overseas themselves. Due to the dire global health situation, all of these training opportunities took place online in 2021. However, participants were still able to interact with the trainers and among themselves, both while engaging in group work and through a variety of other modes of remote interactive exchange.
For years, CUAMM has offered medical students and residents the possibility to undertake a period of training in Africa; thanks to our partnership with SISM, every month Doctors with Africa CUAMM provides four medical students with the opportunity to do an internship in Ethiopia or Tanzania to begin to get acquainted with the world of international health cooperation.
Launched in 2002, the Junior Project Officer (JPO) program is instead aimed at medical residents. In agreement with the Conference of Rectors of Italian Universities (CRUI), the program offers a period of field training lasting from 6 to 12 months and recognized by the student’s university as part of her or his formal education.
Although like our other training opportunities, these important field-training programs were also delayed or suspended in 2021 due to the pandemic, we are pleased to report that 361 medical students and 271 medical residents from 39 universities across Italy have taken part in them from the time they were instituted on through the end of 2021.
IN CUAMM PROGRAMS
Areas from which SISM
medical students with
the Italian Medical
(SISM) leave with
CUAMM for Africa
Universities from which
medical residents leave
with CUAMM for Africa
Universities from which
midwives leave with
CUAMM for Africa
MEDICAL RESIDENTS WITH CUAMM
In 2021 the expenditures of Doctors with Africa CUAMM, a non-profit NGO, totaled €41,986,172. Of this figure, 92.5% (€38,822,857) was invested in our projects for treatment, prevention and training in the countries where we work. Operating costs accounted for 3.2% of the total and included the overall management of CUAMM’s facilities, staff, depreciations, financial charges and taxes and fees. Communications, outreach and fundraising expenses accounted for 4.3% of the total and included the organization of events in Italy, publications, media relations, development education, loyalty marketing, new campaigns and the staff of the Communications, Community Relations and Fundraising divisions.