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Niger Receives Mobile Field Hospital Amid COVID-19 Battle

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The United States government donated a 427-square-meter, $1.6 million mobile field hospital to Niger’s Agadez Regional Council in early April.

The mobile field hospital increases Agadez Regional Hospital’s capacity by 30 beds. Officials proposed the project in 2021, after regional leaders identified coronavirus-related vulnerabilities at the hospital and reached out to partners in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Embassy in Niger.

“This mobile field hospital is a huge opportunity for the region,” Dr. Iro Baoua, director of Agadez Regional Health Council, said at a handover ceremony. “I am very happy with the working partnership between [Niger] Air Base 201 and the local and regional government.”

Before the mobile field hospital was delivered, COVID-19 patients were treated in close proximity to other patients, which increased the risk of spreading the disease.

“Now that there is a separate, isolated facility, the spread of the COVID-19 virus will drastically decrease and keep vulnerable patients from being exposed,” said U.S. Army Spc. Mary Leszczusk, 404th Civil Affairs Battalion. “This was not just constructing a mobile field hospital, but an opportunity to partner with the citizens of the city and provide training for the hospital maintenance team so they feel confident to fix any problems that should occur.”

Many rural communities in Niger have limited access to health care and the hospital can be easily redeployed wherever necessary. Workers can use it for other health care needs when the pandemic ends.

The U.S. donated a similar mobile field hospital to Niger in March 2021. That facility was equipped with negative pressure rooms that ensure patients can receive medical care, including surgeries, without contaminated air flowing out. It was deployed in Ouallam, about 90 kilometers north of Niamey, the nation’s capital.

Throughout the pandemic, Niger has maintained lower COVID-19 infection and death rates than many other African nations.

“We were expecting to be overwhelmed with cases but that never happened,” Dr. Adamou Foumakoye Gado, an anesthetist heading the country’s largest COVID-19 intensive care unit at General Reference Hospital in Niamey, told the Wall Street Journal in July 2021. “The virus has had a very short life here.”

Experts concluded that Niger’s hot, arid climate was one of the world’s least favorable in which the virus could thrive.

“The climate is very harmful to the survival of the virus in the body,” Gado told the newspaper. “There is a silver lining to our misfortune.”

Shortly after the first COVID-19 case was reported in Niger, the country launched a “chatbot” on the WhatsApp social network that allows people to easily access accurate information about COVID-19. The free service was the result of the collaboration of Niger’s Ministry of Health, Facebook, UNICEF and Niger’s National Information Society Agency. It is similar to a service started by the World Health Organization.

The chatbot was designed to answer questions from the public about coronavirus and provide reliable information 24 hours a day.

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