South Africa has been applauded by the World Health Organization for managing to control the spread of the coronavirus far more successfully than developed countries to date. Since the announcement of the first COVID-19 case the government has worked tirelessly to ensure that we are protected, that the spread is carefully monitored and that tough decisions are made to protect the nation. The toughest action has been the nationwide lockdown, which has deeply challenged businesses and communities, but was necessary to avoid an uncontrollable spread of the virus. Social media has been full of praise for our government but there are a lot of questions around what the private sector is doing at this time. It has certainly been inspiring following the daily announcements from companies, but there have been certain standout organisations that have already moved far beyond announcements, working together with government and focusing efforts on vulnerable communities, in ensuring that SA doesn’t suffer the same fate as countries such as China, Italy and the USA. One such company is AECI, who may not be known to households but were amongst the very first to mobilise a rapid response plan with the mission to help the most vulnerable communities in the country, from whom they have absolutely nothing to gain, and have also not asked for any recognition. Over the lockdown period, most organizations have been using the time to align on their plans. However, AECI have already implemented their first round, measured the impact and identified even more areas for investment. The company has also identified that the needs of vulnerable communities are changing as government response changes, and is also planning to” Ride the COVID-19 curve” by responding to these changing needs of communities as the impact of the virus evolves. In less than 30 days, and in the midst of the lockdown, the company has already helped improve the circumstances of over 5 million South Africans by: ●Targeting child-headed households and orphanages by donating water resources, bars of soap, sanitisers and masks for household use. ● Sponsoring a mass behavior change and educational handwashing programme to the value of R1,73 million. Intelligently strategised, the programme ensures education, access to water, access to soaps and handwashing stations in the most vulnerable communities. Twenty sites in the COVID-19 hotspots were identified and rolled out. ●Supporting government clinics and hospitals – The company early on identified that clinics and hospitals could become super-spreading sites if not well–resourced and managed. Patients coming to government clinics are already more likely to die of COVID-19 due to pre-existing conditions like diabetes, respiratory illnesses, cancer and non-communicable diseases. But the clinic environment itself is spacially challenged not allowing for social distancing. ●To help, AECI have donated uniquely designed and locally manufactured handwashing stations. These stations contain education and sensitization for patients before entering the sites. Sponsored healthworkers assist in maintaining social distancing and ensuring every patient wash their hands before entering the clinic and learns the correct methods to prevent the spread of the virus. ●These interventions will not only help patients but are critical in protecting our frontline. The wellbeing of our health practitioners must be prioritized due to the level of exposure they have.
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