Today Fiji received approximately FJD $750,000 worth of medical supplies from the World Health Organization, transported by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in order to further strengthen the country’s capacity to fight COVID-19.
The supplies include 888,500 surgical masks, 53,400 KN95 masks, 29,200 face shields, 2,000 protective goggles and 4,000 isolation gowns.
The Honorable Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete thanked WHO for its continued support throughout the pandemic, noting that while it has been 158 days since the last community case in Fiji, “Fiji will continue to strengthen the surveillance system. This week alone, we have screened more than 10,000 people.” The minister added that “the Fijian government will continue to protect everyone in this unprecedented pandemic period, and at the same time continue to work hard through our remodeling framework to reach the unreachable.”
Minister Waqainabete and Dr Corinne Capuano, Director of Pacific Technical Support and WHO Representative to the South Pacific signed the documents to formally transfer the supplies and equipment to Fiji. Among these was a large quantity of masks donated to the WHO by the Jack Ma Foundation as part of their ongoing commitment to fighting COVID-19.
The supplies were procured through the global COVID-19 supply chain system, coordinated by WHO and WFP. The system is designed to scale up the procurement and delivery of essential medical supplies, so they are available to wherever they are needed.
Ms Jo Pilgrim, Director of WFP’s Pacific Multi Country Office highlighted the critical role of WFP’s Pacific Humanitarian Air Service in deliver these supplies. “The Pacific Humanitarian Air Service proudly supports the work of the World Health Organization and Pacific island governments to restore certainty to the region’s supply chain and deliver urgently needed medical cargo. This service is a true reflection of the ongoing cooperation and collaboration between Pacific island nations, United Nations agencies, humanitarian organizations and donor governments in the region.”
“This is the biggest single shipment of medical supplies WHO has handed over to Fiji since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic” said Dr Capuano. Following discussion with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services WHO identified a significant need for masks and other personal protective equipment. “According to the data WHO has collated, health workers are affected by COVID-19 at higher rates than the general population. Globally, 8-27% of all COVID-19 infections are among health workers, in some cases because of a shortage of critical protective equipment, so we must protect every health care worker and a big part of this is ensuring they have the right personal protective equipment.”
COVID-19 is a poignant reminder for countries to strengthen their health systems. Around the world we are seeing the role strong health systems play in mitigating the health impacts of COVID-19. Strong health systems are also critical for social and economic wellbeing of a country.
Background on JIMT
The provision of these supplies is a result of a considered process of needs assessment, resource mobilization, securing the items and delivery. Critical technical support for the effective use of these supplies is being provided through a Pacific Joint Incident Management Team (JIMT), which is led by WHO.
Since early January 2020, the World Health Organization in the Pacific has been working closely alongside Pacific Governments and Ministries of Health, in collaboration with partners, to ensure that countries are well prepared to respond to the threat of COVID-19.
Through a COVID-19 Pacific Joint Incident Management Team (JIMT), WHO is coordinating with partners to bring together resources and assist Pacific countries’ readiness to delay the spread of the virus and mitigate negative health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. This includes:
- Training and technical guidance on critical preparedness, readiness and response actions for COVID-19, including: incident management and Health Emergency Operations Centres (HEOC); clinical and public health system strengthening; enhancing disease surveillance; laboratory and response systems; strengthening case and contact management and establishing case isolation and quarantine facilities; and supporting infection prevention and control in health facilities and the community.
- Working with government and community sectors, to ensure that a whole-of-government, whole-of-society response is planned and implemented.
- Procuring critical laboratory and medical supplies needed to test and treat cases, and personal protective equipment needed to protect health workers.
- Communicating with the public and engaging with communities on how to protect themselves and others, especially the vulnerable and those at highest risk.