VIENTIANE -- Today, the United States through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) officially handed over cold chain and IT equipment worth around U.S. $150,000 to the Ministry of Health (MOH) to further expand COVID-19 vaccination coverage in Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), especially in hard-to-reach communities.
The handover of the equipment, which was procured with the support of UNICEF, was held at the office of the National Immunization Programme in the presence of Dr. Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, Director General of Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion, Ministry of Health, Mr. Cullen Hughes, acting USAID Country Representative to Lao PDR, and Ms. Rie Takesue, OIC Chief of Health, UNICEF Lao PDR.
During the event, Dr. Phonepaseuth Ounaphom thanked USAID and the U.S. Government for the assistance and expressed his appreciation to UNICEF for their support on vaccination during the pandemic. “Through the sustained assistance from our international partners, Lao PDR has achieved significant vaccination coverage. USAID’s support is another important contribution to our work, ensuring that vaccines are delivered to every child, mother, and family, thus paving the path towards vaccinating the country against COVID-19,” stated Dr. Phonepaseuth Ounaphom.
The cold chain equipment included 135 cold boxes to help with transporting vaccines from one cold storage location to another or to health facilities and 2,000 freeze-free vaccine carriers to support health workers deliver vaccines to immunization sites. Furthermore, the cold boxes can also be used as backup storage for vaccines during emergencies. In addition, USAID provided IT equipment, including 245 tablets, alongside 21 computer and printer sets to help strengthen data management and collection, supervision at immunization sites, and enable access to e-learning opportunities for health workers.
“The equipment provided today will further support the Ministry of Health in strengthening cold chain logistics and the management information systems that underpin the entire national vaccination campaign,” stated Mr. Hughes. He complemented the Government of Lao PDR and MOH for their effective COVID-19 response, and highlighted the importance of partnerships in responding to the pandemic. “We have seen the power of partnerships during the pandemic in keeping people safe. The U.S. Government is proud to have played a key part in addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on the lives of Lao people,” he added.
The handover is part of the recent COVID-19 assistance to Lao PDR from USAID through UNICEF. This includes a recent US $1.4 million grant to UNICEF supporting the Government of Laos in monitoring cold chain facilities, community engagement and monitoring adverse events following vaccination. Additionally, USAID previously provided a grant of US $2 million to UNICEF and WHO for the operationalization of cold chain regional hubs in Luang Prabang, Saravanh, Savannakhet, Oudomxay, Champasak and Vientiane. To date, a total of 588 units of cold chain equipment have been delivered and installed in these provinces with the support of USAID, which are serving to vaccinate the entire country.
“UNICEF thanks USAID for this generous contribution to the vaccination drive in Lao PDR. Vaccines have been an important factor in the current decline of severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 that we now see today, and the equipment provided will ensure that vaccines can reach even more people, especially those most vulnerable,” remarked Ms. Takesue.