In trying to help the people most in need, MSF has carried out a wide range of activities over the past 14 months, depending on what was most useful to local health systems. We have organized training sessions for frontline health staff, both in well-equipped hospitals in wealthy countries and in very basic facilities [in low-resource settings]. We supported them with infection prevention and control, disinfection, triage of patients, staff and patient flow.
We have cared for patients: the mildly sick, the severely sick, and the dying. In some places we have supported intensive care wards, in other places we ran them. We have distributed masks and taught people how to employ simple preventive measures to keep themselves safe, such as keeping a distance and washing their hands. We reached millions of people with these messages on social media. And we have provided many sessions of mental health care, mainly for staff on the frontlines of the pandemic.
Having been on the frontline of epidemics ourselves, we know firsthand how demanding, how exhausting, and how stressful this work can be. Many of the health workers who have labored so tirelessly over the past year had little or no previous experience responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases. No one had experience with COVID-19. Faced with a new and unknown disease, lacking the tools to treat patients, scared of being infected on the job, and passing the infection on to loved ones at home—this pandemic has been an enormous emotional burden for frontline health workers. We must take care of the people who take care of us.
One year after its official declaration, the pandemic has not faded away. Safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19 now exist, but for the vast majority of people around the world they are not yet available—and may not be for a long time. Often the people who fall through the cracks in the health care system are the very same people who will [miss out on access to] vaccination. Dedicated to help the most vulnerable, MSF’s role in this pandemic is not over yet.