Israeli humanitarian aid agency IsraAID dispatched a medical, logistical and psychosocial team to Eswatini (Swaziland) on March 8 at the invitation of the Eswatini government to support the southern African country’s upcoming national COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

The pandemic has claimed the lives of several Eswatini leaders, including Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini. The impoverished country, which borders South Africa and Mozambique, has the highest COVID-19 death rates in Africa and the highest HIV prevalence in the world.

IsraAID will focus on the mental health and resilience of the country’s frontline health workers as a key factor in implementing a public health response and will help the non-governmental organization formulate its new “Global Vaccine Access” initiative.

The initial assessment team, to be joined by Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Medicine epidemiologist Professor Michael Edelstein, arrived in the country with the support of the Kirsh Foundation, founded by businessman and Eswatini citizen Nathan Kirsh.

IsraAID has responded to the coronavirus pandemic in 16 countries, said CEO Yotam Polizer.

“Vaccines are crucial to global efforts to end the pandemic, yet many countries across the Global South are struggling to access the vaccines they need to protect their populations,” he said.

“During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, I saw firsthand the importance of a holistic community-based approach to overcoming health crises, including trust-building and mental-health support for medical workers alongside public health programs and medical care,” continued Polizer.

“We hope to use our experience to help the government of Eswatini build and implement a successful immunization program, and to expand our vaccination efforts to other countries in the near future through our Global Vaccine Access Initiative.”

IsraAID has responded to crises in 55 countries since its founding in 2001.

This article was originally published by Israel21c.

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