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Ethiopia deploys new digital tools for COVID19 surveillance, response

Addis Ababa, March 30, 2020 (FBC) -The Ministry of Health and Ethiopia Public Health Institute unveiled a suite of new digital health tools that are built on top of DHIS2 to enhance surveillance, monitoring and tracking of coronavirus cases in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new systems were developed with support from USAID’s Digital Health Activity, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Data Use Partnership, and youth volunteer group to support the fight against COVID-19 across the country.

Minister of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse said “The tools that we are launching today are critical in terms of routinely collecting surveillance data, tracking suspects, tracing contacts to confirmed cases, issuing lab requests and receiving results, and monitoring COVID-19 patients until their health outcome is determined.

“These tools will be integrated with the other existing systems developed by our partners for better consistency and timeliness of all COVID-19 related information.”

Dr. Ebba Abate, the Director General of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), remarked that the tools will support the enrollment and tracking of suspected cases, create lab requests, link confirmed cases with contacts, and monitor patient outcomes.

“As a result, call center agents, rapid response team members, medical officers, lab technicians, and national and local health authorities involved in the coronavirus response will be able to do their jobs more efficiently.”

USAID Mission Director Sean Jones said, “Data is not going to stop coronavirus by itself, but will serve as an essential tool for epidemiologists and health authorities to monitor and respond to the crisis more effectively. As the disease burden increases, we need to support health workers fighting COVID-19, as well as other diseases.

“This is why USAID is proud to partner with the Government of Ethiopia and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in building a resilient healthcare system that can better withstand the shocks of pandemics through the use of technology for more timely and accurate data to inform response efforts.”

Dr. Solomon Zewdu, Deputy Director of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, echoed the sentiments of his colleagues in the fight against COVID-19 but also stressed the importance of real time data to monitor and respond to the current crisis.

“Lessons learned by public health experts from prior outbreaks, including the Ebola outbreak, indicate that the shortage of real-time data needed to inform decisions and potentially lifesaving policies hampered an effective and efficient response.

“The response for COVID-19 is no different. This is why the Gates Foundation is working closely with USAID and the Government of Ethiopia in providing accurate and timely data to address the threat of coronavirus more efficiently and ultimately save lives across Ethiopia and across the continent.

“I believe that the digital health tools developed in Ethiopia will only support the nation but also serve as public good for other African countries in their efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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