AAN Partners with Direct Relief and BD to Support Locally Produced PPE for Frontline Health Care Workers in Southern and Eastern Africa

January 2021:  The Covid Africa Action Network for Nurses and Nurse-Midwives(ANN) is proud to announce its partnership with Direct Relief and BD supporting AAN initiatives to enhance the safety of nurses, nurse-midwives, and other health care workers on the COVID frontlines in Africa. The support will enable the scale-up of in-country work to establish environmentally sustainable local production of reusable, evidence-based medical masks.

Current AAN projects in Uganda, Malawi, and Rwanda have produced and distributed 200,000 medical masks for nurses and other essential healthcare workers. The partnership with Direct Relief and BD will allow new projects to be rolled out in the Southern and Eastern regions of Africa, with a goal of delivering more than 1 million medical masks for key healthcare workers. 

The rate of COVID infections among nurses and healthcare workers in Africa is high, with the majority due to workplace exposure. Representatives point to insufficient and poor quality PPE and erratic supply chains as the principal causes. Local production of reusable, evidence-based medical masks is key in addressing the unacceptable vulnerability of local healthcare workers.  The International Council of Nurses estimates that healthcare worker COVID fatalities could currently be more than 20,000 globally.

«There is nothing more essential to the viability and vitality of any health system than the health and well-being of its health workers,» said Gary Cohen, Executive Vice President of Global Health for BD and President of the BD Foundation, «COVID presents substantial exposure risks to nurses and other health workers, and this program will help ensure they have the medical masks needed to protect them from airborne exposures.»

“Nurses,nurse-midwives, and community health workers provide frontline care to so many each day, and are even more critical during this pandemic”, said Paulina Ospina, Direct Relief’s Associate Director of Maternal and Child Health Initiatives.

“Direct Relief is so grateful for their courageous work, and for the generous support of BD, that will increase access to protection efforts and PPE supplies.”

The WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti stated: “One infection among health workers is one too many. We must make sure that health personnel has the PPE they need“.

  • In Kenya, more than 30 healthcare workers, including 18 nurses, have died after treating COVID patients, and more than 2200 healthcare workers have been infected. The president of the Kenyan nurses association (NNAK) pointed to the insufficient supply of PPE  and the too often poor quality of protective equipment. 
  • The Uganda Ministry of Health reported 971 healthcare worker infections. On one single day in November 2020, 40 nurses at Mbarara Referral Hospital tested positive.
  • South Africa has the highest number of healthcare workers infected in the African continent with COVID, with 32,429 cases according to the WHO.

About AAN

The COVID Africa Action Network for Nurses & Nurse-Midwives (AAN) is a global, all-volunteer group of health care professionals, working to support nurses & nurse-midwives fighting the COVID pandemic in Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. Further information: AAN Co-Chair, Linda Carrier-Walker lcw@carrierwalker.ch   

About Direct Relief

A humanitarian organization committed to improving the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies, Direct Relief delivers lifesaving medical resources throughout the world to communities in need—without regard to politics, religion, or the ability to pay. For more information, please visit https://www.DirectRelief.org.

About BD 
BD is one of the largest global medical technology companies in the world and is advancing the world of health by improving medical discovery, diagnostics and the delivery of care. The company supports the heroes on the frontlines of health care by developing innovative technology, services and solutions that help advance both clinical therapy for patients and clinical process for health care providers. BD and its 65,000 employees have a passion and commitment to help enhance the safety and efficiency of clinicians’ care delivery process, enable laboratory scientists to accurately detect disease, and advance researchers’ capabilities to develop the next generation of diagnostics and therapeutics. BD has a presence in virtually every country and partners with organizations around the world to address some of the most challenging global health issues. By working in close collaboration with customers, BD can help enhance outcomes, lower costs, increase efficiencies, improve safety and expand access to health care. For more information on BD, please visit