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USAID’s LHSS Project Supports COVID-19 Efforts in Laos
Samkham Meunsy, far right, and MOH workers deliver COVID-19 information to a pharmacy in Vientiane. (Photo: Sisavath Soukkhasing/Save the Children)
In response to an emergency request from the Government of Laos, the Local Health System Sustainability Project (LHSS) is on the ground in Laos working with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The work focuses on needs that USAID and the MOH jointly identified. For example, because many people in Laos go to private pharmacies for health advice, LHSS is teaming with the MOH to make sure pharmacists can identify warning signs of COVID-19; provide appropriate counseling on hygiene, self-isolation, and home care; and refer patients to testing.
“The best part of this project is that it listens and responds to the needs of the government,” said Samkham Meunsy, an LHSS team member who works with the MOH’s Food and Drug Department to provide COVID-19 information to pharmacies in Vientiane, Laos’s capital city. “The Food and Drug Department is allowed to propose activities they see as appropriate to and necessary for the situation in Laos.”
The project is also training and mobilizing local civil society organizations to support infection prevention and control measures in communities -- especially in rural areas, where access to health facilities and essential services can be challenging. With gatherings restricted to prevent the spread of the virus, staff have turned to WhatsApp to conduct the training and stay in touch with nearly 90 civil society organizations.
“We received very positive feedback from them about having this WhatsApp group,” said LHSS team member Saysamone Phomphakdy. “Everything is moving quickly, and this platform allows us to discuss, share information, and work together in a faster way.”
LHSS is also helping the MOH address the heightened risk of COVID-19 transmission along the country’s borders, where populations are extremely mobile. The project supports coaching for provincial health departments on managing risk in border areas through screening and detection, contact tracing, and monitoring of compliance with self-isolation directives. LHSS is also supporting the government’s dissemination of hygiene messages, particularly for low literacy audiences. And it is providing technical support to the government’s busy national emergency hotline, helping it to manage its thousands of daily calls.
As the project supports the Laos government’s life-saving work, it will share lessons learned with partners and stakeholders, including other national, regional, and international organizations fighting the pandemic.