While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected health systems around the world, individuals living in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have been hit the hardest. These countries that often have a weak health infrastructure, high disease burden, and lack of access to treatments and vaccines, face immense threats to their livelihood.
In addition to impacting human health and well-being, economic activities have contracted around the globe as a result of the pandemic and measures to contain it. The immediate result was a severe disruption of global trade and supply chains, a near-complete stop of other disease control activities and restricted primary healthcare services in many countries. The economic shock presents a particular threat to residents in LMICs, who lack the social safety nets that often exist in wealthier countries.
While lockdowns and quarantines implemented by countries to interrupt the spread of COVID-19 have had a disastrous impact on even the strongest economies by halting social and economic activity, many LMICs suffered the most. “What we have seen is that many people in LMICs have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” said Jürg Utzinger, Director of Swiss TPH. “To support the most vulnerable people and communities, cooperation and rapid, fair and equitable access to global public goods, such as vaccines, is needed.”
Support to COVID-19 efforts through Swiss government funding
To assist in the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supported the re-allocation of funds within existing projects that are implemented by Swiss TPH in various parts of Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Activities included the creation of a national call centre, procurement and distribution of personal protective equipment, the training of primary healthcare workers, a new diagnostics laboratory, among other activates.
"It was excellent to see Switzerland actively engaging in the public health response to the pandemic," said Kaspar Wyss, Head of the Swiss Centre for International Health and Deputy Director of Swiss TPH. "We were grateful for this opportunity to rapidly implement local and national initiatives to support COVID-19 relief efforts."