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How a simple tool could be used in response to COVID-19

July 2020
A man stands for a portrait while holding a colourful dose pole.
Community designated distributor, Victor Scott, stands for a portrait while holding his dose pole.

Over the years, neglected tropical disease (NTD) programmes have developed innovative and effective community treatment methods. Now one of these methods could be an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 in Africa.

As a response to the pandemic, the consortium which makes up UK aid’s flagship NTD programme, Ascend West and Central Africa, have adapted their work to use their extensive expertise to help mitigate the effects of this humanitarian crisis.

A new opinion piece from Professor David Molyneux, emeritus professor and former director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and chair of the technical consultative committee for Ascend West and Central Africa, detailed key areas where the programme had pertinent expertise to offer. And one of those key opportunities is the potential use of the dose pole.

The dose pole is a simple, two-metre, universal device used by community volunteers to measure the height of men, women and children during mass drug administration (MDA). The clear markings on the pole make it easy for volunteers to calculate and record the correct dose of treatment for each patient, depending on how tall they are.

Professor Molyneux states: “The thinking around how dose poles could be adapted for providing drugs, accepting that social distancing might need to be maintained into the foreseeable future, should be investigated.”

A man washes his hands.

How the Ascend West and Central Africa programme is supporting countries during COVID-19

Ron Bannerman, director of Ascend West and Central Africa, explains how Sightsavers and partners found a way of using their expertise to help countries combat the pandemic while preserving the gains made in their fight against NTDs.

Read the blog
A man uses a dose pole to measure a woman's height.
Fatta has her height measured by Victor using a dose pole and is given the medicine accordingly.

Victor Scott is a volunteer drug distributor for the Bono and Bonac community in Gbarpolu, Liberia. He was chosen by the community leader because he is well-respected in Gbarpolu.

“I have been doing this work since 2016. My motivation to do this work is because I love my community and I know the importance of treatment. I don’t want anyone to be left behind and this work is important to help save lives,” he said.

As NTD programmes begin to outline plans on how to safely resume MDA campaigns, Professor Molyneux stresses that the expertise of communities and CDDs should be brought to the table when considering the most appropriate ways to deliver treatment. He adds that because of the length of the pole, it could not only be used to measure people’s height but also to help observe social distancing practices during these campaigns.

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