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Intra-Action Review (IAR) for refinement of current COVID-19 response strategies in Kosovo and North Macedonia (October and November 2021)

The Ministries of Health of Kosovo and North Macedonia conducted their first COVID-19 Intra-Action Review (IAR) in October and November 2021 respectively. Both IARs were coordinated by WHO and technically supported by RKI colleagues, with financial support from the WHO/EU DG NEAR Project for strengthening health systems resilience in the Western Balkans. The countries employed the WHO IAR-methodology to provide an opportunity for stakeholders involved in the national COVID-19 response to share experiences, collectively analyze and systematically document their work in order to prioritize action and improve the future response.

The expert group that reviewed the surveillance activities of the COVID-19 response in Kosovo in October 2021. Source: RKIThe expert group that reviewed the surveillance activities of the COVID-19 response in Kosovo in October 2021 (Source: RKI).

Based on their priority needs, Kosovo and North Macedonia selected a number of “pillars” of the COVID-19 response for review (e. g. case management, infection prevention and control, surveillance, public health and social measures). For each pillar, they invited 10-15 key stakeholders within the Public Health System who were involved in the COVID-19 pandemic response. Participants engaged in group discussions to identify challenges and best practices in these areas.

Together with experts from the WHO office for Europe and the WHE Balkan Hub, RKI staff supported the facilitation of the surveillance pillar in Kosovo and North Macedonia: Sofie Gillesberg Raiser (Centre for International Health Protection, ZIG 1), Delphine Perriat und Janina Stauke (Crisis Management Unit of the department Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases, FG 38). The latter could benefit from the knowledge of the local surveillance systems gained during the collaboration between FG 38 at RKI and both Balkan countries’ Institutes of Public Health since 2016, in the framework of the GETPrepaReD project.

The group discussion in November 2021, during which the management of COVID-19 patients during the pandemic response in Nord Macedonia was reviewed. Source: RKIThe group discussion in November 2021, during which the management of COVID-19 patients during the pandemic response in Nord Macedonia was reviewed (Source: RKI).

A number of short- and long-term recommendations were identified for all pillars. In the area of surveillance, the Kosovo and North Macedonia counterparts emphasized the need to invest in the sustainability of human resources and to strengthen technical capacities to conduct surveillance activities such as case investigation, contact tracing or data management. They also recommended the timely revision of their respective communicable diseases legislation and the necessity of harmonizing and digitalizing their health information systems. Building on the momentum of the IAR process, a high-level debriefing of financial and technical Institutions on the IAR outcomes was organised. A consensus was reached amongst partners to ensure and support the implementation of recommendations to improve the current COVID-19 response and strengthen Kosovo´s preparedness and response to epidemics in general.

Date: 03.02.2022