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Published: 09.05.2020
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Seva Foundation had an eye on COVID-19 since January 2020 when their Executive Director, Kate Moynihan invited Dr. Larry Brilliant, Seva co-founder, and former WHO Smallpox program worker, to give a webinar to colleagues from around the world. Seva Foundation’s roots are in the smallpox program of the 1970s, as many of Seva founders worked in this successful global campaign.

In 1985, Dr. Larry Brilliant wrote the book, ‘The Management of Smallpox Eradication in India’. “These roots have informed Seva’s evidence-based approach for over 40 years in our eye health work with partners in 20 countries,” said Moynihan.

Alerted through the January webinar, Seva staff word-wide began to contact partners to ascertain levels of awareness and preparedness regarding the epidemic (later named by WHO to be a pandemic). While working to establish a long term response, Seva has taken several immediate steps to adapt to the emerging “new normal.”

Seva redesigned workshops to fit with the time availability of global staff and partners who were receiving their first stay home orders from local authorities. One five day workshop on operations research skill-building was originally planned to be in Nepal with colleagues from five countries and facilitation by faculty of the Indian Institute of Public Health Hyderabad (IIPHH). The reconfigured workshop is now held during two-hour Zoom sessions with teams from six eye care institutions in Nepal, India, and Cambodia. This multi-center research capacity building and project implementation will continue through 2020 and into mid-2021 through mostly virtual contact. The workshop is the brainchild of Seva research leads Dr. Suzanne Gilbert and Dr. Ken Bassett.

Another example of creative adaptation in the time of COVID-19 is Seva Foundation’s reshaping of ongoing infection control & quality assurance workshop series that was originally designed to be held in person. Led by Seva’s Medical Director, Dr. Chundak Tenzing, the workshop has gone virtual with teams from six Nepali eye hospitals. Noted quality expert Dr. Samina Zamindar has helped to shift the focus to COVID-19 infection control, including the process of establishing and applying Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) within the hospitals. Seva will publish our handbook from this series in May 2020.

Seva and partners have also lent their expertise as key contributors to the article, “COVID‐19 pandemic: Lessons learned and future directions” published by the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology on April 20th, 2020.