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Managing enduring public health emergencies such as COVID-19: lessons from Uganda Red Cross Society’s Ebola virus disease response operation
  1. Daniel Geiger1,
  2. Lisa Harborth1,
  3. Alex Mugyisha2
  1. 1 University of Hamburg Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences, Hamburg, Germany
  2. 2 Uganda Red Cross Society, Kampala, Uganda
  1. Correspondence to Professor Daniel Geiger, University of Hamburg Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences, Hamburg 20146, Germany; daniel.geiger{at}


Background In this piece, we translate insights from our study of routine coordination in the Ebola virus disease response operation by Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) for managing long-lasting public health emergencies. We further show how these lessons are relevant to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. Commonly, emergency response organisations, like the URCS or hospitals, are ill equipped to handle longer lasting emergencies. These emergencies require special measures that combine ad-hoc action, continuous awareness over longer time periods, and the collaboration of multiple actors such as the government, public health institutions and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Results From our study we can translate seven lessons learnt which are important for managing long-term public health emergencies such as pandemics: (1) centralised pooling and management of resources; (2) engagement of local communities in response efforts; (3) the need to continuously recruit and train staff; (4) the establishment of adjusted working patterns to prevent staff exhaustion; (5) cooperation of involved agencies with security for enforcing measures; (6) the revision of funding frameworks; and (7) the use of global positioning system (GPS) data to identify population movement patterns.

Conclusion Although still speculative at this stage, we apply these lessons to the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. We argue that immediate action in the areas of resource pooling and control over critical resources, in the engagement of trusted and respected individuals in risk communication, in the continuous training and hiring of new staff, and in the appropriation of GPS tracking data is called for in managing SARS-CoV-2 by policy makers, NGOs and other involved agencies.

  • health system
  • management
  • organisational effectiveness
  • behaviour

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  • Contributors DG and LH planned the study, collected and analysed the data, and wrote the manuscript. AM supported the planning of the study and coordinated data collection efforts.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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