UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Gianluca Rampolla, said: “Covid-19 has presented Governments with unprecedented challenges across the globe. To support Papua New Guinea’s national efforts to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19, the United Nations has maintained its full presence throughout the country and is doing whatever in its ability to mobilize capacities and funding”.
Mr. Rampolla further remarked: “since the Government activated the emergency response measures, UN agencies are assisting with medical, technical, strategic and operational support, and are delivering essential health supplies and services to bolster national and provincial response capacities”.
The UN has imported and distributed an initial batch of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). A further shipment of 600,000 units of PPEs, 30 ventilators for hospitals around the country and 2 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines for the Institute for Medical Research COVID-19 testing laboratory in Goroka, are on their way to PNG. 34 tents have been shipped in and are being set up for use in screening and quarantining patients.
Medical equipment and various laboratory consumables for isolation facilities, 10 mobile quarantine units, ambulances and additional PPEs are also being procured, while emergency water and sanitation interventions have been stepped up in 300 vulnerable communities.
A national public health campaign promoting behaviors to prevent COVID-19 in being carried out across the country through print materials, radio and tv broadcasts, and community outreach activities.
Recognizing that the crisis has impacts beyond the health emergency and that many aspects of peoples’ lives are affected by COVID-19, the UN is also monitoring and responding to secondary impacts, especially aiming at protecting the most vulnerable: women, children and people living with disabilities, as well as populations most at risk.
The World Health Organization (WHO), a UN specialized agency, is closely supporting the National Department of Health’s lead role in coordinating the country’s preparedness and response to COVID-19 and is technically leading the UN system joint efforts.
The WHO has established an unparalleled track record supporting the Government contain public health emergencies in Papua New Guinea.
Following the 2018 polio outbreak in the country, WHO, in partnership with UNICEF, launched a comprehensive response that included eight rounds of vaccinations covering more than 3 million children that was facilitated by the deployment of experts to all provinces to conduct surveillance, enhance capacity for immunization and increasing uptake of vaccination services.
In 2019, WHO prevented a potential measles outbreak experienced by many Pacific countries by integrating measles and rubella vaccines in the ongoing polio response. The proactive strategy protected more than one million children under five years old.
The UN support to the COVID-19 response is made possible through the work that under the technical leadership of WHO, FAO, IOM, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNOPS and UNWomen are carrying out.
Mr. Rampolla stated: “ The same amazing UN team that assisted PNG respond to the 2018 Highlands earthquake and that worked hard to ensure the polio outbreak be stopped in 6 months, that very same team is here on the frontlines, to work hand in hand with the Government and the people of PNG to contain and mitigate the COVID- 19”.
“Nothing of what the UN is doing to support PNG would be possible without international solidarity. I would like to acknowledge and sincerely thank the Governments of Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, United States, the European Union and the World Bank, for the indispensable financial support provided”, said Mr. Rampolla.
“WHO and the rest of the UN family in PNG is fully committed to continue working with the Prime Minister, the Controller and the Department of Health, and with all our Development Partners, to defeat the scourge of COVID-19 and then accelerate towards sustainable development”.