Watch: Unacceptable — community health workers without COVID-19 protective gear

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Last Mile Health co-founder and CEO Raj Panjabi said it is vital to ensure all health workers are given enough personal protective gear to be safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But in an interview with Devex, Panjabi said community health workers in some African countries are being sent out without even a mask — something he called “absolutely unacceptable.”

“This is the lowest class of health workers; it’s the one that’s been the most underrecognized and undervalued. But it’s absolutely unacceptable for us not to have protective equipment,” Panjabi said in the conversation with Devex President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar.

“A nurse or a community health worker without a mask is like a soldier without a helmet,” said Panjabi, a prominent champion of community health workers — the core focus of the NGO he co-founded in his native Liberia.

In the interview, Panjabi noted that even the World Health Organization’s estimates for the quantity of masks and gloves for low- and middle-income countries do not take community health workers into account.

More interviews with humanitarian leaders on COVID-19. Watch:
How Jan Egeland sees the crisis developing
Mark Dybul calls for global task force
Amref Health Africa CEO on the impact on NGO finances
Former OFDA chief gives Trump administration a ‘D’ on response
How behavioral science is changing the response

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About the author

  • Raj Kumar

    Raj Kumar is the Founding President and Editor-in-Chief at Devex, the media platform for the global development community. He is a media leader and former humanitarian council chair for the World Economic Forum and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His work has led him to more than 50 countries, where he has had the honor to meet many of the aid workers and development professionals who make up the Devex community. He is the author of the book "The Business of Changing the World," a go-to primer on the ideas, people, and technology disrupting the aid industry.