Deborah Mwesigwa, a Jinja District Leader (Resident District Commissioner) in Uganda, receives her first COVID-19 vaccination. Photo credit: Diana Ankunda


URC’s experience with infectious disease outbreaks – such as Zika and Ebola – has demonstrated how epidemics and pandemics require ongoing and sustained attention, from initial response to recovery.

With the spread of COVID-19, we are supporting ministries of health and other partners across dozens of countries as they implement strategies to test, treat, trace, and isolate for this virus. We are helping governments respond through existing platforms, resources, and infrastructure. And we are identifying opportunities and mobilizing resources to address the immediate pandemic crisis and prepare long-term recovery processes.

At the same time, we continue to fight other infectious diseases. For more than 50 years we have been building health system resilience by helping to:

  • Expand coverage and quality of health services;
  • Improve laboratory capacity for diagnostics and management of infectious diseases;
  • Strengthen information systems for collecting, analyzing, and using transparent and quality data for decision-making and learning; and
  • Improve infection control and biosafety practices.

Preventing the next pandemic

“The opportunity exists to leverage political and financial support to establish and implement a global early warning surveillance network to detect emerging threats.”
Dr. Dennis Carroll
Senior Technical Advisor – Global Health Security

As COVID-19 transitions from a pandemic to a global security threat, URC continues to empower ministries of health, other government agencies, civil society, communities, and partners to implement response strategies. This includes continued support to country health systems and supply chains for an effective response at the patient, community, facility, and health system level. Resourceful, creative project teams have thought outside the box to maintain services including setting up tents outside facilities, expanding multi-month dispensing of drugs at community drop points, and so much more. Efforts have centered on:

Maintaining Essential Health Services
URC is ensuring continuity of essential services and integration of COVID-19 responses within infectious and chronic disease and primary health services. Working within an ever changing landscape of lockdowns, URC teams are safely ensuring the provision of health services, distributing and providing training on personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, facilitating case finding through health facility and community linkages, and ensuring safe treatment of those infected. And we are supporting vaccine campaigns and vaccine uptake. Below is a sampling of our approaches ranging from the traditional on-the-ground community health worker to use of popular digital platforms to reach those in need.

Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and Facility-Based Quality Improvement (QI)
URC has used its expertise in QI and the capacity building of human resources for health to improve facility-level care provision while also mitigating risks posed by COVID-19. Across programs, URC has carried out IPC trainings on improved COVID-19 case management, containment, and mitigation. We expanded web-based platform use for trainings.

Supporting Behavior Change
URC couples health system strengthening with subnational efforts to improve COVID-19 prevention. We support the implementation of continued COVID-19 behavior change and risk communication through mass communication campaigns, social media engagement including WhatsApp groups to combat misinformation, targeted community outreach, and social mobilization efforts.

Supporting Vaccine Readiness/Distribution
URC is supporting the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns by offering evidence-based guidance to ministries of health with COVID-19 vaccine micro mapping, planning, coordination, resource mobilization, capacity building of vaccination teams, and social and behavior change campaigns to build vaccination confidence.

Watch URC’s Senior Advisor for Global Health Security, Dr. Dennis Carroll, discuss the future of pandemic preparedness and response as part of Devex World 2020.

Emerging Responses
As COVID-19 evolves, additional needs will emerge for:

  • Supporting COVID-19 data management and reporting into health information systems;
  • Strengthening surveillance and lab testing as COVID-19 mutates into new strains; and
  • Using implementation science and shared learning of emerging data to inform the COVID-19 global response.