Meet the Frontliners: IOM Health Care Workers Step up to Fight COVID-19 in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa - Laboratory technologists from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are supporting the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and the Ethiopian Public Health Institute to bolster efforts to speed up testing for COVID-19.

As of 7 September, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) had tested more than one million people for COVID-19, registering more than 58,000 confirmed cases.   

“Since the beginning of the outbreak, IOM laboratory technologists have played a crucial role in establishing COVID-19 testing facilities by organizing the workflow, documentation, decoding sample data and following basic laboratory procedures,” said Minyiluh Dejene, Quality Assurance Officer at the COVID.

The AASTU laboratory, which was designated as one of 11 testing facilities in the capital Addis Ababa at the end of May, has tested around 2,000 samples..

Dereje Assefa has been working for IOM as a laboratory technologist for 12 years. He is currently volunteering at the Addis Ababa Science and Technology University which is one of the institutions mandated with COVID-19 testing.

IOM health care workers step up to fight COVID-19 in Ethiopia. Credits: Alemayehu Seifesselasie/ IOM 2020.

“To be able to share my expertise and to be able to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 is a rewarding experience,” said Dereje.

“When we came here, the Quarantine Centre Coordinator asked us to assist in establishing a COVID-19 testing laboratory within the AASTU Quarantine Centre. Since then, we have been training staff and conducting COVID-19 tests.”

Tewodros Girmay is another Laboratory Technologist from IOM who has been deployed to AASTU.

Tewodros Girmay, IOM’s Medical Laboratory Technologist, explains the process of COVID-19 testing.

“I am glad to volunteer at this centre,” he said. “Conducting these tests is critical in figuring out how much the virus has spread and improve efforts in preventing further transmissions.”

Dereje and Tewodros are among 50 staff that IOM has deployed to support returnees staying in quarantine centres, by providing COVID-19 awareness as well as infection prevention and control training for personnel and health professionals. IOM is supporting the Government of Ethiopia with the management of 38 quarantine centres. IOM is also conducting waste disposal trainings including how to properly use personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, sanitizers and face masks for support staff and returnees, and building the capacity of health-care workers on triage and surveillance.

IOM health care workers step up to fight COVID-19 in Ethiopia. Credits: Alemayehu Seifesselasie/ IOM 2020.

Distribution of PPEs

IOM has distributed more than 50,000 personal protective equipment (PPE) to six quarantine centres in Addis Ababa. The PPEs, which include 185 packs of face masks, 461 face shields and 185 packs of gloves, are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in quarantine centres.

“PPEs are critical for the protection of returnees staying at the quarantine centres as well as the personnel working at the centres,” explained Malambo Moonga, Head of the Migration Management Programme for IOM Ethiopia.

“The support of IOM for returning migrants does not stop at the quarantine centres. The team is also extending its assistance with onward transportation to their homes.”

In addition, IOM is providing extra blankets, formula milk, diapers, plastic washing basins and other essentials for returnees with young children, as well as partnering with UNICEF and the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to ensure successful family tracing and reunification of unaccompanied migrant children.

Ethiopia has welcomed more than more than 30,400 returnees in different quarantine centres since the start of the pandemic. More than 25,400 of them are from Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

In addition to the quarantine centres in Addis Ababa, all migrants registered and screened at points of entry (airports, sea ports and land border crossings) are provided with food and water, before the government transports them to designated quarantine facilities where they are accommodated for 14 days.

The current distribution of PPEs was made possible with funding support from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

For more information, please contact IOM Ethiopia: Alemayehu Seifeselassie, Tel: ‪+251116611117 (Ext. 1455), Mobile: ‪+251911639082, Email: and Krizia Kaye Viray, Mobile: +251993531220, Email: