When COVID-19 came to Cambodia, it was important to procure essential supplies for response—and it proved to be more challenging than in other acute health emergencies.
Around the world, most countries needed significant supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their frontline health care workers, laboratory supplies to test for COVID-19 and medical supplies to treat people sickened by the virus.
“Supplies are essential to COVID-19 prevention, preparedness and response,” said Dr. Li Ailan, World Health Organization (WHO) Representative to Cambodia. “Without adequate medical, laboratory and PPE supplies, COVID-19 will spread further and harm many more people.”
Globally, the coronavirus pandemic has caused a shortage of essential supplies. Manufacturing disruptions fractured global supply chains even as demand for supplies skyrocketed. Shipping supplies was made more difficult by trade restrictions and the cancellation of many commercial flights.
“Because this health emergency has affected the entire world, it has been more challenging,” said Stefan Adriaensens, WHO Logistician. “Countries around the world have struggled to get the supplies they need, putting people at an increased risk of infection.”
With these global challenges in procurement, WHO’s role in facilitating the provision of medical supplies for COVID-19 prevention and response in Cambodia has become more critical. Along with UNDP, UNICEF and UNOPS, WHO has supported the Cambodian Ministry of Health (MOH) in procuring supplies. WHO, in its global normative and standard-setting role, has also provided technical advice and guidance on minimum standards for supplies.
As of the end of August, WHO has provided the MOH with a range of vital supplies. Nearly 480,000 PPEs have been provided, including more than 370,000 masks and 70,000 face shields. 300 oxygen concentrators, which are used to provide oxygen therapy to patients, were shipped to Cambodia. WHO has also delivered key laboratory supplies, including 71,200 RT-PCR reagents, which are used to diagnose cases of COVID-19. Further, WHO has supported other partners to procure a range of supplies with funding from the World Bank, including 5,000 GeneXpert test cartridges and 53 ventilators.
Health care workers at Bavel Referral Hospital in Battambang wear masks while checking the temperature of patients before they enter the hospital.
© WHO/Chor Sokunthea
“As long as the virus continues to circulate anywhere, no country and no one is safe, including in Cambodia,” said Dr. Li. “We must continue to detect, test, isolate and care for patients, and trace and quarantine their contacts—and to do this we must have sufficient diagnostics, PPE, and medical equipment.”
Beyond procuring supplies, WHO and the UN system are also strengthening the global supply chain. The COVID-19 Supply Chain System, coordinated by WHO and the World Food Programme, was established to significantly scale up and speed the delivery of essential COVID-19 supplies. As of 13 August, 83 countries, including Cambodia, had submitted 383 requests for supplies with a total estimated value of US $163 million through the COVID-19 Supply Portal.
In addition to medical, lab and PPE supplies, fair access to tools such as treatments and vaccines is vital. On 24 April, WHO launched the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is a global collaboration to accelerate development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. COVAX Facility, the vaccines pillar of the ACT-Accelerator co-led by WHO, Gavi and CEPI, is speeding up the search for an effective vaccine for all countries. At the same time, it is supporting the building of manufacturing capabilities, and buying supply ahead of time so that 2 billion doses can be rapidly and equitably distributed by the end of 2021.
Vaccines are a global public health good. When a safe and effective vaccine is available, Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), will be used to pay for the doses allocated to developing countries. Cambodia is eligible to receive COVAX AMC support.
In addition to accelerating research and ensuring manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines, WHO has supported the Royal Government of Cambodia to strengthen its regulatory capacity, draft a COVID-19 National Deployment and Vaccination Plan (NDVP) and assess immunization supply chain management. This planning will be essential to get a successful COVID-19 vaccine to priority groups in an equitable and effective manner.
WHO and partners continue to work with suppliers to secure commitments for supplies needed for COVID-19 prevention, preparedness and response. This work is crucial in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection and protect public health in Cambodia.
Programme and Administrative Officer