July 14, 2020
The first shipment of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) medical supplies procured under the World Bank-funded Sierra Leone COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Project, arrived in Freetown on June 29.
The consignment, according to a joint World Bank and UNICEF statement, was received by the United Nations Children’s Fund, who procured the supplies on behalf of the Government of Sierra Leone for distribution to the designated medical facilities across the country.
The release discloses that on April 2, 2020, the World Bank approved a US$7.5 million grant to help the Government respond to the threat posed by the outbreak and strengthen national systems for public health preparedness.
It states that the funds have helped fill critical financing gaps identified due to the new emergency preparedness and response needs created by the global pandemic.
It continues that the project supports, amongst others, the provision of medical supplies and commodities, laboratory diagnostic equipment, reagents, including test kits to support the fight against the pandemic, and builds on the gains made from the Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement Project, the Ebola Emergency Response Project, and the Health Service Delivery and System Support Project.
“The arrival of this first consignment of essential medical supplies at this crucial moment, will further boost the efforts of the response mechanism mounted against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Thomas Sama, the Chief Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. “We remain immensely grateful to the World Bank for swiftly providing the needed funds and to UNICEF for acting within the realm of an implicit urgency through a very efficient procurement system. These items will be promptly distributed to all service delivery facilities across the country to facilitate the outbreak response.”
Some of the supplies in the consignment include resuscitation equipment and other medical devices as well as soap and sanitizers, which will be distributed across specific COVID-19 treatment centers to help curb the impact of the outbreak on the country’s health system.
The statement noted that the Sierra Leone COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness and Response Project seeks to strengthen the country’s health systems capacities to detect, mitigate risks and control the outbreak and other immediately reportable respiratory related disease outbreaks.
“Through this support from the World Bank, more supplies have been procured, including Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) supplies and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect frontline health workers as they discharge their duties during this pandemic. Essential medicines and medical equipment will also be brought in to help manage COVID-19 cases at designated isolation facilities, quarantine homes, treatment centers and intensive care units.”
“The World Bank will continue working with other development partners to help the Government deal with the critical challenges posed in the fight against COVID-19,” said Gayle Martin, World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone. “Therefore, the availability of these supplies will help in the provision of needed medical services and ensure the health system cope with increased demand for services and develop intra-hospital infection control measures.”
Since March 31, 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Sierra Leone, the number of cases has been rising and pressure has been exerted on the health system across the country. The limited availability of commercial flights, a measure instituted globally to curb the spread of the disease, has inflicted a heavy toll on shipments of supplies to support the needs of health facilities. Despite these logistical constraints, UNICEF has worked through its existing networks to prioritize shipment of life-saving supplies to children, their families and to frontline health workers.
“Since the start of the outbreak, UNICEF has been working closely with the Government of Sierra Leone to keep children and their families safe and to support the safety of frontline healthcare workers,” said UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh. “UNICEF regards the frontline workers as our everyday heroes and contributing to their safety is a priority for us.”
The World Bank and UNICEF in Sierra Leone are also partnering to lower the potential human and economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country through an emergency cash transfer programme and through programmes to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.