SUVA, U.S. Embassy in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu -- United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), have handed over essential health equipment to the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services to support gaps in the continuing COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts.
“These medical supplies and equipment will be distributed to all health care facilities around the country which will, in a way, contribute to the improvement of health care for Fijians,” said the Hon. Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete. “Our nation is currently on the road to social, health and economic recovery after COVID-19 and we acknowledge this generous support, for without it, we would not be travelling this recovery path.”
This health equipment will benefit more than 600,000 Fijians in the country, including 3,000 healthcare workers. The equipment includes items such as vaccine refrigerators, GeneXpert machines, tents, temperature loggers and swabs as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns, and aprons.
“The United States is proud of the partnership we have built with the Ministry of Health to respond to COVID-19 in Fiji. We believe that this collaboration was critical to the efforts to combat COVID -19 and will pave the way to building a stronger, more resilient nation that is ready to face future challenges,” said the Deputy Chief of Mission, Rebecca Owen.
The cold chain equipment handed over today will significantly strengthen the national cold chain capacity to manage COVID-19 vaccines, such as Moderna, at -15˚C to -25˚C. They will also enable the freezing of water packs to transport the vaccines. In addition, the solar-powered combined refrigerator and freezer will allow for storage of vaccines at +2˚C to +8˚C in the areas without any electricity, or where there is less than eight hours of reliable electricity a day.
“Proper storage of COVID-19 vaccines enables a longer shelf-life, so UNICEF is pleased to partner with the United States Government to fill this gap,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Jonathan Veitch. “The PPE is also invaluable because while vaccines provide protection, they alone cannot eliminate transmission.”
The Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services continues to rely on PPE to protect healthcare workers, particularly in areas with low vaccination coverage. Without the proper combination of PPEs, frontline healthcare workers run the risk of contracting COVID-19 and potentially spreading it to their families as well as within their communities.
The PPE will be distributed to over 190 vaccination points within primary healthcare facilities in Fiji to support infection prevention control for healthcare workers during immunization sessions. UNICEF will continue to provide on-the-ground support, under the leadership of the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services, to ensure that communities and healthcare workers are protected.