Investing in Women Health Workers to Help Bolster COVID-19 Efforts in Underserved Communities with CARE

Latest Astellas Global Health Foundation grant aims to help COVID-19 prevention and vaccination efforts to reach nearly 800,000 people in remote, underserved districts and communities

One of the most critical components in the fight against COVID-19 is protecting and supporting the individuals who provide healthcare to patients and communities impacted by the pandemic. Around the world, these essential frontline health workers, many of whom are considered “informal” or “semi-formal” health workers, are risking their lives to ensure vaccines, services and supplies reach the most underserved and at-risk communities. At least 70 percent of these workers are women, many of whom are underpaid or unpaid for the crucial work they do.

Women are a vital part of CARE’s community-based efforts to improve basic education, increase access to quality healthcare and expand economic opportunity for all. As part of its commitment to support the COVID-19 response in highly vulnerable communities, the Astellas Global Health Foundation has provided two grants to CARE. Through these investments in equipping, paying, training, and supporting workers, the Astellas Global Health Foundation has been proud to help make a sustainable impact on the COVID-19 response and the health of people around the world.

In 2020, Foundation funding aided CARE’s COVID-19 training and education efforts in South Sudan and Ethiopia, while 2021 funding is helping provide support in communities in Nepal and Honduras

CARE’s work in Nepal and Honduras focuses on comprehensive COVID-19 prevention measures and vaccination campaigns in remote and underserved communities, especially where public health infrastructure is weak. These efforts range from training and educating volunteers and health workers to supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) and identifying needs for vaccine storage and transportation at the local level.

“There has been a great effort [from CARE] to respond to COVID-19 [in Honduras]. I am happy that CARE supports women leaders with capacity building, so they help in preventing COVID-19 spread in their community,” said Gabriela Maria Portillo Rodriguez, a surgeon and postgraduate degree candidate in health management, who worked in the Intibucá region of Honduras.

In Honduras, “PPE is scarce and they need it to protect their lives,” said Gabriela. Many members of the communities in the west part of Honduras did not have access to disposable masks and couldn’t afford to buy a reusable mask. She goes on to share, “We came up with alternatives,” and worked with community members to develop reusable masks using traditional Lenca clothing. “That way, we supported [the] small business of women sewing these masks and strengthened preventive measures in the communities….They used those with pride.”

Humanitarian workers like Gabriela have been working tirelessly to aid COVID-19 response efforts in communities where inadequate public health infrastructure, often already strained prior to the pandemic, has been put in peril as a result of the staggering drain on resources required to combat the virus.

Funding from the Astellas Global Health Foundation is already making an impact:

2020 Grant – South Sudan and Ethiopia

  • In South Sudan, CARE trained 252 health workers (56% of them women) on COVID-19 prevention, created 78 handwashing stations, distributed PPE items to 397 health workers and provided 100 home-based care kits for people suffering from mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.
  • In Ethiopia, CARE reached more than 140,000 people through a mass awareness campaign, produced and distributed educational materials on COVID-19 and gender-based violence and trained 50 community healthcare workers on infection prevention and control. The project also purchased PPE and hygiene kits as well as safe water storage for health facilities.

2021 Grant – Nepal and Honduras

  • In Nepal, CARE has identified needs and gaps for COVID-19 vaccination programs and purchased necessary equipment to ensure safe storage and transport of vaccines. Local vaccination coordination committee members, vaccinators and healthcare volunteers are receiving training to empower them to best serve the community and increase the coverage of vaccination efforts
  • In the Western Region of Honduras, CARE is collaborating to assess current materials and develop a training process for health volunteers in the region to strengthen the capacity of volunteers and improve education and communication strategies around the importance of prevention and vaccination against COVID-19. Additional work is in process to secure PPE that will reach 220 front-line health workers and 786 volunteers, along with hygiene and biosafety kits for 1,400 families, along with assessing water storage needs in 31 health clinics within 14 municipalities.

“We are at a critical moment in working to meet the needs of people and communities and contributing to sustainability improvements for our global society,” says Shingo Iino, president of the Astellas Global Health Foundation. “We take this shared responsibility very seriously, and we are honored to work with CARE to further its efforts as we work to build One World, A Healthier Tomorrow.”

To learn more about how CARE continues to play a central role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the CARE website.