Responding to Coronavirus in the Marshall Islands

March 11, 2020

Update from Marshall Islands COVID-19 deployment

In February, after the COVID-19 virus was declared a “public health emergency of international concern,” the World Health Organization requested Heart to Heart International (HHI) deploy a team to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) to support planning, preparedness and training to minimize the risk of importation and potential local transmission of COVID-19.

“Heart to Heart International has extensive expertise in infection control and quarantine from its work in Liberia at the height of the Ebola epidemic as well as cholera outbreaks in Haiti. Using that expertise, we are able to instruct on and create appropriate procedures to help medical personnel on the island contain and manage any potential virus outbreak.” – Dr. Rick Randolph, HHI Chief Medical Officer

The Marshall Islands has been experiencing an ongoing dengue outbreak for more than six months and as a result, the health infrastructure has already been overwhelmed. The guidance and expertise provided by HHI’s team will help the staff and health system avoid or manage any future outbreaks.

During the response, the HHI team performed:

  • An examination of the Ministry of Health’s quarantine space, providing guidance on Infection Prevention and Control and patient control;
  • Training on Infection Prevention and Control (including correct/appropriate use of PPE) to healthcare workers and to staff members at Amata Kabua International Airport, the Marshall Islands’ largest port of entry;
  • Case management planning for the isolation space for COVID-19, including treatment of individuals in isolation and in quarantine.

Because of travel restrictions, the HHI team demobilized and is providing continued support remotely for the remainder of March. This includes plans for clinical staffing and safe patient transport mechanisms and ongoing training for staff on IPC across the health system.

The need for quality health care right now is imperative. The training and procedures put in place in the Marshall Islands and during the Ebola epidemic position HHI as uniquely qualified to consult and respond to this national emergency. HHI continues to distribute critical medicines to partners domestically and around the world. This urgently needed equipment and medication will save lives.

This crisis continues to evolve, and HHI is committed to its mission of helping the most vulnerable populations by working with health leaders, medical facilities, and government officials as COVID-19 continues to impact more people across the United States and world.