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The Problem

As the COVID-19 pandemic grew in the early months of 2020, governments and donor agencies in Central Asia worked to assess the region’s readiness and devise a coordinated plan. Authorities identified a critical shortage of certain laboratory and hospital resources for rapidly detecting and responding to outbreaks, as well as high-priority needs related to preventing infections, strengthening surveillance, and improving early case management. USAID asked the LHSS Project to assist with a variety of emergency measures in these areas.

What We’re Doing

Since April 2020, LHSS has provided surge support and health system capacity-building for government-led COVID-19 responses in five Central Asia countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. LHSS contributions have not only helped with immediate pandemic response needs but have also put countries on a stronger footing to withstand future shocks.

Throughout the region, we coordinate with ministries of health and other organizations also assisting, including the International Federation of the Red Crescent, the United Nations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

  • In Kazakhstan, LHSS has worked with the Ministry of Health and other local authorities to identify and procure high-priority commodities. LHSS procurements focused on items to enable safe collection and transportation of samples for medical testing, increased laboratory testing capacity, and speedier identification of patients in need of isolation and care. They included materials such as viral transport medium vials, RNA mini-kits, collection tubes, and other supplies for state-of-the-art PCR testing.
  • In Kyrgyz Republic, LHSS focuses on improving laboratory services, strengthening the country’s disease surveillance system, and procuring hospital equipment and supplies to help doctors care for patients with breathing problems. We also collaborate with and strengthen Ministry of Health capacity to produce and broaden access to trustworthy information about the pandemic for the public.
  • In Tajikistan, LHSS has collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population to procure PCR testing equipment and lab supplies, train laboratory staff, and establish a new regional testing site to expand critical COVID-19 testing. Training focuses on advanced COVID-19 testing techniques, including the use of PCR machines, as well as lab safety and infection prevention.
  • In Turkmenistan, LHSS has worked under the direction of the Ministry of Health to identify resources needed to support testing, identification, isolation, and care of people with COVID-19.
  • In Uzbekistan – Central Asia’s most populous country, at 33 million – LHSS contributes to a multi-partner, government-led COVID-19 response. We are procuring testing supplies, assisting with logistics and supply chain management, supporting Ministry of Health epidemiologists, and assessing hospital readiness to receive USAID-donated ventilators. We are also working to strengthen the capacity of doctors and nurses to provide high-quality critical care for patients requiring ventilator support. Our work will lead to stronger national surveillance and response mechanisms and a more resilient health system.

Who This Helps

LHSS planning, coordination, and consultation with partners in Central Asia and subsequent investments in procurement, training, and technical assistance are helping people obtain faster, more accurate COVID-19 tests and treatment. In Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan, COVID-19 patients with breathing problems are being cared for at hospitals that have the specialized medical equipment they need. Laboratory technicians in Tajikistan are gaining new skills in advanced molecular testing techniques. Throughout the region, Ministry of Health decision makers are benefiting from expert input and support as they prioritize needs and strengthen their capacity to protect all people during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

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Tajikistan Lab Training nurse using computer

STORY

Building Laboratory Muscle in Tajikistan

Lab specialists in Tajikistan are conducting advanced PCR testing for COVID-19, thanks to training provided through LHSS. The high-quality test results have helped doctors save lives, says a laboratory head.