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Japan offers grant through UNICEF to strengthen Maldives' cold chain system

12 March 2021, MVT 17:33
A health worker prepares to administer the COVISHIELD vaccine. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI/ MIHAARU
12 March 2021, MVT 17:33

Japan, on Wednesday, committed USD 1,032,719 (MVR 15,924,527) to United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Maldives in order to support the government's effort to build a sustainable immunization supply chain system.

Maldives is among the 25 countries in Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia and the Pacific Island region that the Japanese government is assisting under the "Last One Mile Support". Intended to complement efforts of the COVAX Facility, this initiative will involve the provision of cold chain equipment through UNICEF to ensure vaccination.

The aspects covered under the financial assistance will include:

- Provision of Cold Chain Equipment (CCE) for COVID-19 vaccines including dry ice making machines, walk-in freezers and ice lined refrigerators, as well as logistical support for CCE installation.

- Enhancing the capacity of government employees such as technicians to operate and maintain CCE

- Enhancing the capacity of health care workers to utilise and monitor CCE

- Supporting state efforts to strengthen COVID-19 cold chain and vaccine management through coordination, consultation, data collection and analysis, as well as assistance with policy formulation

UNICEF has extended considerable assistance to the Maldives' national response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, UNICEF has supported the government with public communication and engagement around demand generation, addressing vaccine hesitancy for the COVID-19 vaccines, community mobilisation and conducting training sessions for key partners, as well as strengthening immunization cold chain systems through the procurement of key equipment and provision of technical expertise.

Japan's latest grant will enable UNICEF Maldives to work even more closely with the Ministry of Health and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to ensure that strong Immunization Supply Chains Management (ISCM) systems are established to effectively receive, store and roll-out the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

As part of the Japanese government's active contribution to global efforts to overcome the COVID-19, a total of approximately USD 7.5 million has been extended to Maldives as grants since the onset of the pandemic. These contributions include:

- USD 5.6 million to the government in order to equip and improve health services in atolls and regional hospitals across Maldives.

- USD 1.4 million to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Maldives in support of small and medium enterprises in agri-businesses affected by COVID-19

- USD 356,400 to UNICEF Maldives and USD 185,000 to the Maldives Red Crescent in order to facilitate COVID-19 responses complementing the government's.

In addition to the aforementioned grants, USD 47.5 million was extended to Maldives as the 'COVID-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan’.

The Japanese government has expressed hope that the latest grant assistance would enhance swift distribution of vaccines and support the government’s inclusive approach to providing free and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines for Maldivians as well as all people residing in the country.

Maldives officially commenced its vaccine roll-out on February 1 after receiving the initial donation of 100,000 doses of the COVISHIELD vaccine from the Indian government. An additional donation of 100,000 doses was granted on February 20.

Currently, the island nation records a total of 21,268 virus cases of which 2,502 are active cases, in addition to 18,695 recoveries and 64 deaths.

On March 12, 2020, WHO classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. To date, the new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 119.1 million people and claimed over 2.6 million lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 94.7 million people have recovered.

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