A digital platform facilitates COVID-19 decision-making
For weeks, Nepal remained largely untouched by coronavirus; however, since mid-May the number of infections has been rising there too. To help the country manage this increase better, it will soon be able to access a platform called OSCAR. OSCAR was introduced by KfW to collate medical data from various sources and form an overall picture of the situation, which can be used to make well-founded decisions.
With just over 4,000 coronavirus cases, the roof of the world, as Nepal is often known due to its high-altitude location, is still seeing comparatively moderate case numbers; however, they are on the rise. Until mid-May, Nepal remained practically untouched by the pandemic; since then, the virus has started to spread there at an increasing pace. Recently, several hundred cases have been added to the figure each day. And there is no end yet in sight.
Soon, however, officials in Nepal will be able to access OSCAR, which will help them get a better handle on the crisis: the platform provides an up-to-date overview of case numbers alongside the available health care capacity. How many free beds are there, and where? Are there enough doctors in the region where a cluster of coronavirus cases has formed? Is there a lack of ventilators? OSCAR can answer all of these questions quickly and with the latest information. Based on mathematical modelling, the platform can also facilitate predictions about the fortnight to come. This enables Nepal to achieve maximum impact when deploying its limited staff and financial resources in the health care sector.
Health care provision challenges pre-dating coronavirus
Nepal has recently made significant progress on some key health care indicators. For example, mortality among children under five has decreased in the past few years. However, the goal of universal health care is still a long way off. Among other factors, that is due to the country’s difficult topography, being located largely in the Himalayan mountain range, and the severe earthquake of 2015 which destroyed many health care centres.
According to figures from the World Bank, less than half of people in Nepal have access to adequate medical care, while a quarter live below the poverty line. A crisis like the spread of COVID-19 therefore hits a country like Nepal particularly hard. This can make a platform like OSCAR all the more useful.
OSCAR is a digital support system for decision-making around health care risks. KfW developed it as a prototype for the prevention and management of pandemics, consulting humanitarian and scientific partner institutions in the process. The WHO in South East Asia is interested in the system in connection with COVID-19 and it has asked KfW to provide a suitably adapted version. This will be ready in the near future, financed with funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
A versatile programme
The platform will be used — in cooperation with the WHO — initially in Nepal and two other South East Asian countries which have yet to be chosen. However, it is feasible that several more countries could use OSCAR to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. KfW sees the programme as a digital global public good. It will therefore also instigate an open source community with whose help it will continue to develop the platform further. The prototype is not restricted to COVID-19; with suitable adjustments it can also provide useful services in other health care crises and assist with routine planning in health care settings. This means that the platform can be integrated into comprehensive KfW pandemic prevention measures as a digital component, something that the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) draws particular attention to in its new BMZ 2030 strategy.
“What we have created here is a platform for the health care sector,” explains project manager Patrick Rudolph, discussing KfW’s intentions, “which is suitable for several types of application and which can help poorer countries in particular to make most efficient use of their limited funds.”