16 June 2020 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

GPZL’s COVID-19 Working Groups: June 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 May/June:

Working Group 1: Leprosy Emergency Operations Committee, has completed a survey of 32 National Leprosy Programme Managers and determined follow up steps from the information gathered. They have developed a list of countries that will need follow up, countries do not need further action, and countries that may need guidance information. Several of the issues raised by the survey have to do with MDT supplies, though the majority of these issues are related to in-country distribution. There were also challenges identified which were more systemic issues likely not related to COVID, such as late ordering requests for supplies, limited organization of self-care groups, and of irregular monitoring of nerve function impairment.

It is clear from the survey with National Leprosy Programme Managers that it is difficult to predict when the COVID-19 lockdown will be lifted and no longer impact the work in countries. In response, Working Group 1 is considering solutions for common challenges, such as limited disability care and production of devices, disruption of self-care groups, and disruption of active case finding. For example, can family members be used to help with contact screening? Can we use telemedicine to offer medical advice to patients with wound care needs?

A survey that is complementary to the previously disseminated survey for National Leprosy Programme Managers has been distributed to civil society organizations and NGOs. Results from that survey have yielded 26 responses from organizations from 12 countries and are currently being analyzed.

Working Group 1 is planning to develop a second WHO/GPZL/ILEP Guidance document, which can be shared with countries, and will be elevating success stories from particular countries that are managing well. They also plan to assess the supply chain in certain countries, working closely with Novartis and WHO. Working Group 1 will compile a short report from all the survey findings with applicable lessons for the leprosy community.

Working Group 2: Emergency Advocacy for Persons Affected, hosted regional calls with persons affected organizations and individuals to gather perspectives on their needs and challenges during the COVID-19 health crisis during April and May.

A comprehensive report on these meetings has been released. This report covers access to health care, access to fundamental goods, access to government support, access to stable livelihoods, access to information about COVID-19, and the impact of intersecting vulnerabilities on the resiliency of persons affected.

In addition to the report, Working Group 2 has released recommendations of specific actions NGO and government leaders can take to address the needs and challenges of persons affected during the COVID-19 pandemic, and U.N. Special Rapporteur for Persons Affected and their Families, Alice Cruz, has released an open letter on COVID-19 and leprosy addressed to UN Member States.

Working Group 3: Post COVID-19, is currently developing their TOR and goals. Actives will commence soon.

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.