Virtue Foundation’s Response to COVID-19
We write to you in the context of a dynamic and rapidly evolving crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic. No situation in recent history has so profoundly united the entire global community in a common struggle and a common goal. As such, Virtue Foundation and its volunteers have also joined in these collective global efforts and have done their best to adapt to this ever-changing global health emergency.
Until March 15th, Virtue Foundation was still planning its annual Teaching and Surgical Mission to Mongolia, a testament to the dedication of the volunteers who wanted to return to continue advanced surgical work and training in several clinical sites and specialties across Mongolia. Despite our best efforts, Virtue Foundation had to cancel the 2020 Teaching and Surgical Mission to Mongolia. This decision was made together with our in-country partners, who overwhelmingly agreed with this decision. Yet despite these changes and cancellations, the very essence and heart of our global health work has not changed:
Virtue Foundation and its volunteers remain dedicated and committed more than ever to help those most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though Virtue Foundation programs as we have come to know them may be on ‘pause,’ we are adapting to COVID-19 just like the rest of the world is. Instead of moving forward with our usual programming, we’ve been working on the following projects:
PPE in NYC and Mongolia
Virtue Foundation had amassed a number of supplies to travel with our volunteer medical teams ahead of our 12th Annual Surgical and Teaching Mission to Mongolia scheduled for May 2020. These items, namely a variety of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, caps, and eyewear, have instead been donated to Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York to be used by the healthcare workers who need it most. In addition, all of our PPE stored in local storage units in Mongolia was donated to our Mongolian colleagues so they can be protected.
Critical Oxygen and Respiratory Support in Ghana
Virtue Foundation has worked on the ground in Ghana for over ten years, creating sustainable healthcare programs and working in the most underserved and vulnerable areas. East Sissala District in the northern half of Ghana is one such area, and has been the location of many of Virtue Foundation’s health delivery efforts, including targeted solutions to improve healthcare infrastructure and surgical/clinical skills, including the development of enhanced resuscitation and ventilation capabilities particularly to reduce mortality of infants, children and mothers.
With the first cases of coronavirus arriving to the Upper West region of Ghana, healthcare resources will be stretched even further with insufficient vital oxygen supply for those most in need of it. Access to oxygen is the difference between life and death in this illness and other pulmonary infections. In response, Virtue Foundation is donating critical oxygen cylinders and regulators to provide life-saving oxygen to the main health centers in East Sissala District. These oxygen cylinders will power the ventilators, nebulizers and critical oxygen delivery supply previously donated by Virtue Foundation to Tumu District Hospital.
Expanded Tricycle Ambulance Service and Critical Water Supply in Ghana
In early 2019, Virtue Foundation teamed up with the Okoa Project to expand Virtue Foundation’s existing tricycle ambulance service with additional locally manufactured collaboratively designed tricycle ambulances, enabling more patients to have emergency access to healthcare in East Sissala District, especially during this time when responding to the COVID-19 crisis in a timely manner will be critically important. In addition to expanding the tricycle ambulance service, as a response to COVID-19, Virtue Foundation and Okoa Project have also partnered to purchase and distribute a network of handwashing stations along with an accompanying campaign emphasizing the importance of hand hygiene, as well as providing local seamstresses with patterns for locally made face masks. Together, these two organizations hope to safeguard Sissalas against the spread of this burgeoning pandemic.
Virtue Foundation also supported the repair of the local radio station, Radford Radio, the only source of news and communication to a community of nearly 100,000 people at a time of national crisis. Additionally we sponsored the repair of a borehole in the area to supply residents with a steady water source, and hope to raise funds for the drilling of further boreholes as running water is vital in the fight against this infection.
COVID-19 Data-mapping Tool Providing Unique Map of Hospitals and NGOs in Low-Income Countries
The Virtue Foundation Data Mapping Initiative is a forward-thinking technology platform that seeks to create a more efficient marketplace for the delivery of healthcare in under-served regions of the world. Born from years of on the ground medical missions, the project seeks to use predictive analytics and machine learning algorithms to analyze geospatial data, infrastructure, risk factors, and other environmental conditions to better predict need and match available resources.
In time, Virtue Foundation hopes to synthesize all of its data to build a simple user interface to provide individuals, non-profits, and governments with efficient access to the data needed to help make critical decisions on how to most efficiently allocate resources for greatest impact and to promote development, especially in the areas of health.
As the Virtue Foundation Data Mapping team continues to develop this platform, our team of statisticians and data scientists took some of the information they have gathered thus far to construct a usable map of confirmed healthcare facilities in 24 low-income countries. This data is important to map in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is predicted to disproportionately affect these poorer countries already suffering from fragile healthcare systems. Mapping the hospitals and clinics in these low-income countries allows easy identification of those healthcare facilities best poised to support vulnerable populations seeking immediate care from the coronavirus, better visualization of hospitals locations in relation to population centers and better prediction of where resources and aid should be targeted by NGOs and governments to improve capacity and capabilities in those facilities most able to save vulnerable lives in their country.
An important feature of this mapping tool is its real time integration of COVID-19 data for all the listed countries. Virtue Foundation hopes that this tool highlights the trajectory and trends of the pandemic in these countries, to ensure these areas of the world remain visible and not forgotten.