The COVID-19 pandemic remains a serious public health concern across the globe. International attention is currently focused on the alarming situation in India, as many other countries around the world confront and prepare for second and third waves of infection.
AKDN continues to deploy its institutional resources and expertise in the service of national response efforts, in order to suppress the spread of the virus through public education and communication, provide health services to those who have been infected, and support communities with humanitarian and other assistance to deal with the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.
The current situation in India has remained an important priority. The Prince Aly Khan Hospital (PAKH) in Mumbai, part of the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), has been at the forefront of the response. Since the onset of the pandemic, PAKH has allocated nearly half of its total bed capacity and close to 80 percent of its critical care beds to treating COVID-19 patients. In early 2020, a 50-bed unit was also established at the nearby Diamond Jubilee High School, which served as a quarantine centre for asymptomatic patients and staff. To date, over 1,800 COVID-19 patients have been treated at the Hospital, nearly 60 percent of whom were in critical stages. The Hospital has been widely acclaimed for the standard of care and the relatively low mortality rate.
“We adapted quickly during the first wave,” says Dr. Sulaiman Ladhani, consulting chest physician and Head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at PAKH. “We established common management protocols, infection control protocols and a robust monitoring system to care for our patients and ensure the safety of our staff. This preparedness has only served to strengthen our response to the second wave,” he says.
In addition to this, in October 2020, the Hospital established an RT-PCR testing facility. Over 13,000 gold standard laboratory tests have been performed to date – the vast majority of which have either been subsidised or provided at no cost. Since the roll-out of the country’s vaccination drive, the Hospital has administered thousands of inoculations despite the acute shortages in many parts of the country. PAKH, through its physicians, also supports a 24-hour helpline and provides teleconsultations. The Hospital is also involved, via its purchasing department, in ensuring sufficient supplies of medicines, oxygen and other provisions, as necessary.
Doctors from AKHS, in partnership with community medical volunteers, have trained dozens of local teams on the protocols of serving their communities while keeping themselves safe. Eight community facilities are currently operational with a capacity of nearly 160 beds supported by first aid and oxygen.
Elsewhere around the world, the AKDN continues to work closely with governments to address the impact of the pandemic. In Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kenya and Tanzania, 21 field hospitals with a capacity of more than 400 beds have been established for COVID-19 patients.
The Aga Khan University Hospitals in Karachi and Nairobi and the Prince Aly Khan Hospital in Mumbai have also participated in national and international COVID-19 drugs and vaccine trials. Researchers in Karachi discovered ways in which to use a single ventilator for two patients simultaneously, thereby saving lives. The Aga Khan University has also developed 3D-printed nasal swabs that can be produced in Pakistan, reducing the need for importing nasal swab kits.
In addition, in Central Asia and East Africa, an eHealth system provides critical virtual consultations for rural and remote areas. Aga Khan University’s Intensive Care Unit doctors have provided expert advice to over 1,100 physicians across Pakistan. Aga Khan Health Services and Aga Khan University jointly developed a mobile application to track COVID-19 immunisation, and which is being launched in Tajikistan.
Despite these efforts, and the work of many other local, national, and international institutions, the virus continues to pose serious threats to health and livelihoods. Communities everywhere must continue to follow public health precautions and guidelines, especially the wearing of masks, hand washing and other hygiene measures, respecting physical distancing guidelines, avoiding gatherings outside the household, and taking maximum and timely advantage of vaccination programmes where they are available.
The Global Pandemic Relief Fund is an important source of support for these and many other efforts. Those wishing to make a contribution to this work of the AKDN, can do so through the following links:
Aga Khan Foundation Canada
Donate online – https://www.akfc.ca/pandemicfund
In the United Kingdom and Europe:
Aga Khan Foundation United Kingdom
Donate online – https://www.akf.org.uk/pandemicfund
In the United States:
Aga Khan Foundation USA
Donate online – https://www.akfusa.org/pandemicfund
All Other Countries:
For other countries, please donate through one of the above offices, or please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss other international giving options.