Although the EpiC project was initially awarded to support countries to achieve and maintain HIV epidemic control, we have also joined the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to our ongoing content about our HIV work, we are pleased to share stories and learnings from our work fighting COVID-19.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 in Bayelsa, the Ministry of Health found the public health emergency operations center (EOC) at their headquarters in the state’s capital, Yenagoa, unable to keep pace with the rapidly evolving situation. The center had limited capacity for data collection, analysis, and visualization because of inadequate space, equipment, and human resources.

But now, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and through a collaboration among the FHI 360-led EpiC project and Strategic HIV/AIDS and TB Response Program (SHARP TO2), the Palladium-led Data.FI project, and the Bayelsa State Ministry of Health, the EOC’s infrastructure and equipment have been upgraded to international standards. As the management hub for the COVID-19 response, the center now has the capacity to receive and visualize data in real time from multiples sources. Eight large TV monitors in the data visualization center display sophisticated data analytics, including maps of COVID-19 surveillance data. The upgrade also includes improved capacity for digital communications.

The center is also now equipped with a team of consultants and employees of the Ministry of Health who have been trained to analyze and interpret the data and use them to inform efficient allocation of resources and programming to mitigate infection transmission. Through daily data review meetings, this team is making data-driven decisions about how to respond to the pandemic. These include decisions about geographic areas in which to focus testing efforts; number and location of isolation centers; number, cadre, and distribution of human resources; supply chain logistics; and lockdowns in areas with a high burden of COVID-19 infection. With support from Data.FI, the team is also conducting modeling analyses to forecast the spread of new cases and the supplies and resources that will be needed for an effective future response.

SHARP TO2 project staff and consultants will continue to provide technical assistance in the coming months to ensure the full transfer of skills to EOC staff. The center will help the country make informed decisions not only about this pandemic but also about similar public health emergencies in the future.

The Bayelsa EOC was virtually commissioned July 9 by Douye Diri, State Governor. Among the attendees were Mary Beth Leonard, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria; Stephen Hawkins, USAID Mission Director; and Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General-Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Bayelsa, the southernmost state in Nigeria, has an estimated population of 2.2 million. The current number (as of August 5) of confirmed COVID-19 cases was 342.