Meet 6 health care workers on the COVID-19 front lines [video]

For Dareen, who studied nursing on a USAID scholarship in Cairo, seeing the suffering caused by a shortage of health care workers in many parts of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic helps her see the value she adds as a health professional.

By funding training for health workers and providing resources to hospitals, USAID’s global health investments have put the world in a stronger position as infectious disease threats emerge, like the one we fight today.

The U.S. government continues to lead the world as the most generous donor to its partner countries in the fight against COVID-19.

Read on to learn more about Dareen and five health care workers around the world who received support from USAID and are now on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

Community health officer in India

Ranita Maibam is a community health officer in Manipur, India. She is one of thousands of health workers around the country who are working around the clock to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Virtual training provided by USAID prepared her with the knowledge to help her community fight COVID-19. Now, she spreads awareness to her community by conducting hand-washing demonstrations, explaining how COVID-19 is transmitted, and distributing soap and cloth masks.

“I am proud to be a nurse, taking a role and responsibility of a leader, mentor, collaborator, educator, innovator,” she said.

Since March, USAID has trained close to 40,000 health workers on COVID-19 prevention and response in the 12 states where it implements programs, directly benefiting 2.5 million people in India.

Nurse in Colombia

Jenny Esperanza Peña Guerrero is a nurse at Erasmo Meoz University Hospital in Cúcuta, Colombia.

As a city on the border with Venezuela, Cúcuta was recognized as a critical area for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The hospital was prepared for an influx of patients related to the COVID-19 outbreak thanks to USAID’s tent donation, which allowed for the hospital’s expansion.

“I believe we were the first institution to get ready thanks to USAID,” said Jenny.

USAID continues to support Colombian efforts to improve the health of communities along the border with Venezuela.

Disease surveillance officer in Afghanistan

Dr. Hizbullah Jalil is leading the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health’s team in investigating suspected COVID-19 cases in Kabul. “This is a privilege for me to serve my people during this difficult time,” he said. “I will continue to work hard until the last patient is COVID-19-free.”

In 2019, he was one of six Afghan doctors sent to India for training in infectious diseases as part of USAID’s Disease Early Warning System project. All six are now helping the Ministry of Public Health in their COVID-19 response. “My education and the leadership training through USAID’s scholarship program prepared me for this moment,” he said.

In April, while investigating up to 80 suspected cases per day, Dr. Jalil tested positive for COVID-19. “Fortunately, [after] spending three weeks in quarantine, I am back in the field and standing along with my other colleagues, fighting against the deadly disease and helping our people,” he said.

Surgeon and innovator in Israel

Dr. Yoav Mintz is a surgeon at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel. With the support of USAID, his team has developed an open-source ventilator to save COVID-19 patients.

“We have developed this ventilation machine as an open-source machine, with the concept of having parts that are low-cost and available in times of crisis,” Dr. Mintz said.

As a result, medical teams from different countries can download and use the open-source code to develop their own ventilators. This research and development would not have been possible without USAID’s support.

First deputy minister of Georgia’s Ministry of Health

Dr. Tamar Gabunia is a Ministry of Health official in Georgia working with health care providers to prepare them for the COVID-19 response in Georgia. She credits USAID support over the last 15 years with improving the country’s health system and public health surveillance infrastructure.

“Now, we rely on health care workers who received many useful and high-quality trainings with USAID-supported programs,” she said.
Earlier in her career, Dr. Gabunia worked with USAID for eight years in Georgia and other countries, including Cambodia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Ukraine. “I am now happy that I am able to use this experience in my own country,” she said.

“USAID experience helped me to understand how important it is to equip people with needed skills and competencies, so they are able to take care of themselves and yield resilient communities,” she said.

Nurse in Egypt

Dareen is a nursing resident at Nile Badrawi Hospital in Cairo. She studied nursing on a USAID scholarship, which included workshops about handling difficult situations.

Now, she’s on the front line of the COVID-19 response at the hospital. “What I’m doing to fight COVID-19 is helping with the suspected cases, helping with their diagnoses, helping to keep them isolated,” she said.

Dareen’s scholarship prepared her both to care for patients and to stay strong in the face of a crisis.

“In times like this, all the stress and pressure can get to be more than a person can handle,” she said. “The leadership training sessions I received through my scholarship taught me lessons like mindfulness and gratitude for the blessings I have in my life, which have helped me get back on track and keep my mental health in check so that I can continue looking after my patients.”

A version of this USAID article appeared in Medium.