At Sightsavers, we knew that pausing MDA could undo the gains made in the fight against NTDs. Hence, collaborating with donors and partners, we reacted swiftly to adapt a WHO risk assessment tool for the context of NTDs. The new risk assessment and mitigation action tool, known as RAMA, has enabled us and government partners to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 and restart treatment.
The prospect of pausing our MDA work indefinitely was particularly concerning because the delivery of millions of preventative treatments annually is not just important at a moment in time, it builds on past efforts and is critical to present and future efforts towards elimination of a disease. Miss out on a year of treatment, and you might significantly delay when the disease is eliminated and allow for new cases to emerge.
Yet faced with these unprecedented circumstances, there was a collective effort to take stock of where countries stood and to find a way to move forward safely – sometimes surprisingly quickly – once governments completed their risk-benefit assessments and determined which activities could resume. With our regular and new partners, we began to investigate processes and tools that could objectively mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 in our outreach work and actively contribute to fighting the spread of COVID-19. For example, using our knowledge and expertise we were able to flex our largest NTD programme, Ascend West and Central Africa, to help combat COVID-19. Technical in nature, but monumental in impact, the unassumingly named Excel sheet-based RAMA tools are likely to have an impact on MDA and outreach work for years to come.