Mpumalanga is a province of South Africa most well-known for its tourist attraction, the Kruger National Park.
The Mpumalanga Department of Health’s (DOH) Antonnette Hlatshwayo heads the province’s COVID-19 contact tracing team. “Our main challenge was limited resources for contact tracing and monitoring. Without being able to locate and monitor people who had been in close contact with a COVID-infected person, our response would be compromised. We urgenty needed to appoint and train more people, but our rigorous procurement processes are also slow. Right to Care stepped up to provide HR support, appointing data cap-turers, call centre staff and professional nurses and providing them with the equipment they needed, including airtime.”
Under a USAID grant, Right to Care has been providing direct ser-vice delivery and technical assistance in Mpumalanga’s Ehlanzeni district since 2018, but was quickly brought into the COVID response planning and implementation at a provincial level in March this year.
Thomas Crompton, a GIS whizz, is head of department for strategic information analytics at Right to Care. He explains, “The DOH in Mpumalanga had developed an app called Siyanqoba (We Conquer). This was effectively a database of all the cases and contacts. We took this data, analysed it, mapped it out, and used it to support the region’s response.
“We were able to assist with prioritising and allocating tracing and monitoring resources based on different stages of the epidemic. We learned that people aged 30-40 were spreading the disease. They were tracked for isolation. Using provincial and national data, we demonstrated how cases based on age and comorbidities could be used to rank cases according to risk, with higher risk patients traced and monitored more frequently. We also mapped the location of con-tacts allowing us to anticipate where hotspots would occur.”
Hlatshwayo says, “The health department simply didn’t have suffi-cient GIS skills and so we became fully reliant on Right to Care’s analyses and predictions.The visual presentation of the pandemic in our province on a dashboard brought the data to life and ensured faster responses.
“We have understood the power of data and while Right to Care’s support was ‘work in action’, there was also an important skills trans-fer that took place. We are ready for a resurgence if it comes.”