Jamaica and other Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) member countries will benefit from the entity’s acquisition of additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies, valued at more than US$100 million, to bolster the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak across the Americas.
PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said the provisions, which were sourced from suppliers in Asia, include gloves, surgical and N95 masks, surgical gowns, goggles, and face shields, “all of which are urgently needed within healthcare systems”.
She was speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital media briefing on Tuesday (June 9).
Dr. Etienne advised that most of the supplies have been purchased using PAHO’s Strategic Fund, adding that arrangements are being finalised for the shipment to arrive this week.
She indicated that the supplies will be stored at PAHO’s Regional Emergency Warehouse in Panama, from where they will be distributed. Dr. Etienne said the items are welcome in light of challenges that countries globally have been experiencing, since January, in sourcing key supplies and equipment to effectively deal with COVID-19.
“The global market for respirators, personal protective equipment, and lab testing supplies reeled in response to the tremendous needs and the difficulties of increasing production while… observing social distancing,” she pointed out.
Dr. Etienne said PAHO initially issued 1.4 million PPE and other critical medical supplies to some 25 member countries from its stockpiled inventory at the emergency warehouse in Panama earlier this year.
She indicated that the additional supplies were acquired via an “unprecedented” supply chain established by the World Health Organization (WHO), other United Nations (UN) agencies, and a number of international stakeholders, “to tackle that challenge of supply and ensure equitable access and delivery, where they were needed”.
“We are especially grateful for the support that we have received from WHO… and the regional support to the Americas from the governments of Canada, Great Britain, India and Japan,” the PAHO Director said.
She also thanked the European Commission, World Bank, and UN Central Emergency Response Fund “that donated some US$30 million to provide much needed supplies and equipment to countries in need”.
Meanwhile, Dr. Etienne informed that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the Americas surpassed 3.3 million as at June 8, with well over 143,000 deaths.
She noted that many areas are reporting “exponential rises” in both contraction of the virus and deaths, arguing that this is indicative of increasing needs across the Americas.
“Through our Strategic Fund and the Global Supply Chain Task Force, we are looking to help member states to procure the supplies that they very much need,” Dr. Etienne added.