Snapshots from the Field: Pacific preparedness in COVID-19

Orchestrating information channels and facilitating guidance and support to 21 Pacific nations from her seat in Fiji’s capital city of Suva, the ETC Coordinator for the Pacific – Hlekiwe Kachali – is working around the clock to deliver vital communications services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The implications of the virus became very real in the Pacific Islands this week as confirmed cases climbed to 57 and the region recorded its first fatality. As the number of cases continues to increase, travel restrictions mean Hlekiwe is unable to deploy in person – and it is times like these that preparedness in communication solutions reveal their full worth.

As part of the World Health Organization (WHO)-led Joint Pacific COVID-19 Incident Management Team, Hlekiwe is collaborating with telecommunications groups and regulators, national ETC staff and health ministries to set up dedicated public health messaging helplines, ensuring patients do not physically attend health facilities.

Hlekiwe is also advising on communications for Health Emergency Operations Centres (HEOCs) and coordinating national ETC staff to support them. And she is planning to support connectivity for training on telehealth services which distribute guidance via information technologies, allowing long-distance contact between patient and clinician.

Among the many lessons from the global crisis, one is particularly clear: preparedness can save lives.