Integrate Health (IH) has been working with Togolese communities since 2004, starting with an HIV-AIDS program that evolved into the Integrated Primary Care Program in 2015. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic created a pivotal moment, with governments around the world shifting their focus to healthcare. In Togo, as the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in March 2020, the Togolese government through the Ministry of Health (MOH) solicited support from partners to organize, implement, and monitor effective interventions in response to the pandemic. IH responded to the government’s call by raising more than $900,000 USD to provided supplies and improved infrastructure in the fight against COVID-19. In December 2020, IH, in collaboration with the MOH, hosted a press conference focused on the organization’s COVID-19 pandemic response in Togo. IH took this opportunity to reinforce our commitment to helping the MOH achieve their national health objectives and emphasize the critical importance of Community Health Workers and strong primary healthcare systems in the fight against pandemics.
Dr. Essotama Beweli, the Director General of Health Action at the MOH (left) and Christophe Sesso Gbeleou, Integrate Health Country Director (right) during the press conference in December 2020
The MOH has been a key collaborator since the launch of the Integrated Primary Care Program. Before the pandemic, IH and 139 Integrate Health-supported Community Health Workers (CHWs) worked with the MOH’s Districts Health Officials to provide proactive community-based primary care. However, when COVID-19 reached Togo and the Togolese government asked for support, IH knew there was capacity to do more. IH served as a liaison with the COVID Action Fund for Africa initiative, providing $500,000 USD of equipment, including 1.3 million pieces of PPE (927,950 surgical masks, 307,946 single-use examination gloves, and over 23,000 face shields) that were distributed to over 11,000 CHWs nationally. In addition, IH outfitted a building of the Central Regional Hospital of Kara with an isolation wing for COVID-19 patients. IH is working with the support of German Organization for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the MOH to build a treatment center in Kara for infectious diseases.
IH’s contribution to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the MOH’s confidence in IH. Dr. Essotama Beweli, the Director General of Health Action at the MOH, believes that IH is doing incredible work in Togo. During the December 2020 press conference, he spoke to the collaboration: “The health crisis has weakened the system of the MOH. IH has come to strengthen the capacity of this system in response to COVID-19 by supporting the entire country with regard to CHWs.” The pandemic has exposed the fragility of the entire global system, including illustrating the existing inaccessibility of primary care, especially for the rural populations in Togo. Christophe Sesso Gbeleou, IH’s Country Director, said, “Access to services and care is also constrained by the weakness of the social security system. This pandemic teaches us the need to accelerate the strengthening of the health system here in Togo as elsewhere in the world, and the importance of mobilizing and involving communities in the management of public health and epidemics.” Dr. Beweli also expressed a wish for expansion of the IH program throughout the entire country, expanding beyond the 18 health centers in the Kara region.
Over the last five years, IH has worked relentlessly with the MOH to provide primary healthcare to rural populations through the Integrated Primary Care Program. As the collaboration between the two partners intensifies, it shows great potential ahead for a successful scaling of proactive primary healthcare in Togo. And as Andrew Lopez, IH Director of Partnerships said, “The virus is still present. It is not a question of providing one-time support and stopping it. Depending on the needs of the government, we will provide support and the actions will continue.”
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