“Globally, there is a high demand for protective equipment and health supplies to prevent COVID-19, and this region is no exception,” said Bernt Aasen, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “This is where UNICEF steps in. Keeping health workers safe is paramount and we are making every effort to help them do their everyday life-saving job.”
Over the past three weeks, UNICEF has donated an increasing number of health and hygiene supplies to government institutions or families in 12 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean. Items locally procured and distributed included hand sanitizer, soap, water supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as masks, gowns, gloves, disposable face shields, goggles and coveralls, among others.
Two weeks ago, a UNICEF humanitarian shipment also landed in Caracas, Venezuela with approximately 90 tonnes of critical health supplies, including PPE kits to enable identification of 28,000 suspected COVID-19 patients, and emergency kits for 110,000 people to treat COVID-19 patients with severe respiratory problems.
Despite extreme market conditions and logistical constraints, UNICEF is planning to ship about 52 tonnes of vital supplies to be distributed in the coming weeks and months in Latin America and the Caribbean for the COVID-19 response, including: 220,000 face masks; 50,000 coveralls; 32,400 disposable face shields; 1,500 goggles; 2,400 thermometers; 5,000 tests; 65 oxygen concentrators.
In addition to the international shipments, UNICEF offices in the region are also searching for and procuring critical supplies in local markets to support domestic economies.
“The first distribution of health and hygiene items took place in countries and more is planned in the coming weeks,” said Bernt Aasen, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. “This pandemic is a moving target; needs are now growing day by day in each country across the region. Both globally and locally, our teams are searching for hygiene products and personal protective equipment to reach families and health workers with essential supplies as soon as possible.”
Together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies, governments and local partners, UNICEF is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 through preventative actions in affected countries, including dissemination of life-saving messaging campaigns and provision of hygiene and medical kits to health and other facilities.
As part of the United Nations coordinated response to COVID-19, UNICEF is contributing to curb the spread of the pandemic and mitigate collateral impacts for children, women and vulnerable families, including the risks of essential social services being disrupted.
Earlier this year UNICEF appealed for US$48 million to support its emergency response in the region. So far, less than 15 per cent of the required funding has been received./.