Welcome to the first issue of the REACT-C19 bulletin!

I am happy and proud to be introducing the REACT-C19 project which aims to support the hospitals in Azerbaijan in rapidly scaling-up their capacities to respond to COVID-19. This project mobilizes Azerbaijani doctors working in Turkey to support their home countries at these extraordinary times. This collaboration between the two countries once again builds on the strong ties between Azerbaijan and Turkey and reemphasizes the warmly held notion of being one nation with two states. We thank the governments of both countries for making this project possible by REACTing rapidly and providing the necessary permissions within two days over one weekend! This project could not have been possible without the strong support and flawless partnership of TABIB, SAMHI, and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. These groups ensured a smooth operation even under the challenging lock-down conditions the country was in at the start of the project. We also gratefully acknowledge the financial contributions of the Government of Republic of Korea, USAID and the British Embassy in Azerbaijan.

Our teams arrived in Baku after 10 days of hands-on training at Ege University on various technical capacities in COVID-19 response, based on the WHO Hospital Readiness Checklist such as setting up hospital triage systems, infection prevention and control in hospitals, incident management system, surveillance, and others. In addition to these, they received training on what it means to be a WHO consultant, working effectively in teams, communication skills, and others. Since their arrival, they worked in 8 hospitals: Naftchilar, ATU TTK, ATU TCK, Yeni Klinika in Baku within the first sprint and Shamkir, Ganja, Goranboy and Aghdas Regional Hospitals in the second sprint.

This has truly been an amazing experience so far! And it is not over yet. We are looking into ways of making the most of it and possibly extending it over the coming months by focusing in on the areas where we can make the biggest impact.

In only 60 working days, our teams supported the management teams in hospitals in initiating 5 Infection Control Committees, setting up or strengthening 4 hospital triage systems, finalizing the formation of incident management teams and conducting peer-to- peer, hands-on training sessions to over 500 health care workers in the COVID-19 disease, how to take swabs for COVID-19 diagnosis, infection prevention and control, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, the correct use of personal protective equipment, managing COVID-19 cases (mild, moderate and severe), mechanical ventilation, among others.

We are looking forward to visiting 8 more hospitals in the coming weeks until the end of the project which is the end of June.

You will continue to hear from us via this bulletin.

Wishing you all healthy and safe days!