11 August 2020 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

GPZL’s COVID-19 Working Groups: August 2020 Update

The COVID-19 pandemic has strongly impacted leprosy control and prevention, and in response, GPZL has established three working groups to address the leprosy community’s key challenges during the global health crisis, and spearhead emergency response.
These working groups have undertaken the following activities in July/August:

Working Group 1: Leprosy Emergency Operations Committee, worked together to resolve MDT distribution issues for countries; some of these problems uncovered by the NLPM survey results. A few distribution issues remain, partly due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and others may be systemic issues. However, WHO and Novartis are working closely together to resolve these issues. Because the LEOC included 3 supply chain experts from Novartis and WHO, the group learned overall how complex MDT distribution is. Many parameters are considered when planning distribution, such as the state of emergency, lead time, the size of the drugs that are needed, and many other factors.

The LEOC also analyzed and summarized results from a survey sent to NGOs and CSOs. Common themes were found across the survey results, including sharp reductions in active case finding, nerve function tests, disability services and ulcer care. While MDT supply was mostly available according to the respondents, patient access was limited. The NGOs and CSOs were now providing more humanitarian aid, such as food, water and hand hygiene.

Despite these challenges, several NGO/CSOs were trying new solutions; in particular, mobile technology was increased between patients and healthcare workers. In the July call, the LEOC also discussed other innovations that they had observed, such as engaging family members for contact examination.

Because of these new solutions, the group decided to draft an article for Leprosy Review. The article would communicate the information the LEOC has uncovered and also provide recommendations to a broader group of stakeholders. Publishing in an open-access journal would also give more visibility to the information. The draft will be completed by the end of August, and will be a meaningful capstone to the closing of this workgroup. Working group 3 will then pick up recommendations from this article, along with WHO guidance, and help interpret the guidance for countries.

Working Group 2: Emergency Advocacy for Persons Affected, has moved into its next phase of data collection (after the release of the consultative calls report), and is gathering information about the ways in which governments, NGOs, CSOs, and persons affected organizations are responding to the current crisis and needs of persons affected. To gather this information, Working Group 2 has created and disseminated a questionnaire about the support services governments and NGOs are offering persons affected in response to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This questionnaire has been made available in eight languages and has received 125+ responses from 20+ countries. The information gathered from these responses will be compiled and disseminated through a fact sheet and the zeroleprosy.org website. This will help connect persons affected with needed assistance, and help NGOs and governments understand how to better support persons affected during this time.

In addition to the questionnaire, Working Group 2 is in the process of creating a video that share the key findings of the consultative calls report, and will feature the voices of women affected that contributed to the report. This video will be released on GPZL’s YouTube channel, and Twitter and Facebook pages.

Working Group 3: Post COVID-19, in the coming weeks will initiate conversations with key stakeholders about increasing collaboration and coordination in leprosy plans and activities, to better align the leprosy community in preparation for future challenges that will arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. More information about the progress of this group will be forthcoming as these conversations begin.

The work of these three groups is ongoing. Updates on the progress of these groups will be released in the newsletter and the Newsroom page of zeroleprosy.org. For more information about these work groups, or for questions about GPZL’s COVID-19 strategy, please contact us.