Natacha Maher

Medecins Sans Frontiers

IPC without borders: A mission impossible?

Concurrent session: There has never been a more privileged time to be an IPC nurse than during the COVID-19 pandemic especially during the International Year of the Nurse in 2020. It was during this time that an opportunity opened for me to fulfil a lifelong passion that enabled me to offer my IPC nursing skills and experience for the humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) /Doctors Without Borders. My mission was to take up the position of IPC Nursing Activity Manager (NAM) for MSF in Afghanistan, which I choose to accept with both excitement and apprehension. I was based in 2 projects during my mission, The MSF Khost maternity hospital (one of the busiest maternity hospitals in Afghanistan) and the newly rebuilt MSF trauma hospital in Kunduz.
Médecins Sans Frontiers has been present in Afghanistan since the early 1980’s. Today MSF works in hospitals in Kabul, Helman, Kunduz, Khost and Kandhar. The focus of MSF in Afghanistan is currently to help improve access to healthcare that has been made difficult as a result of the current conflict between warring parties. As the conflict continues, Afghanistan remains the most dangerous country in the world to give birth.
I am delighted to share my story of being in an IPC nurse in a country with high security risk during COVID-19 and how MSF is responding to COVID-19 in Afghanistan. I will share with you the role of IPC in the MSF projects and the many bluffs and challenges of the mission while implementing IPC best practice including, cleaning and disinfection processes, waste and sanitation (WASTAN), sterilisation, surveillance and auditing tools such as the 5 moments of hand hygiene and providing IPC education while overcoming the language and cultural differences. I will also share the many successful and rewarding moments of my time with MSF.

Natacha Maher is an Infection Prevention and Control Nursing Activity Manager for the international humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) /Doctors Without Borders. Natacha has worked as a Clinical Nurse Specialist IPC for the Canterbury DHB and Nurse Maude Association, Christchurch. It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that an unexpected opportunity inspired Natacha to accept the mission and challenge her comfit zone to support IPC in MSF projects in Afghanistan. Natacha has a master’s degree in health science (endorsed in Nursing) and a Graduate Certificate in IPC. She is a published poet in the NZNO publication “Listening with my heart: poems By Aotearoa New Zealand Nurses”.


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