ADB, UNICEF and WHO provide medical supplies to Tonga for COVID-19 response

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NUKU’ALOFA, TONGA, 23 October 2020 – Personal protective equipment and other essential medical equipment provided by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with ADB funding support, the World Health Organization (WHO), and transported by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) were today delivered to the Government of Tonga to strengthen the country’s capacity to respond to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Honourable Prime Minister Rev. Dr Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa thanked the UN partners for their continued support throughout the pandemic, noting that while Tonga remains free of COVID-19, Tonga will continue to prepare for the introduction of cases.

The TOP1.3 million (USD 585,520) worth of medical supplies include around 1.8 million medical masks, 57,000 KN95 masks, 11,000 face shields, 1,700 protective goggles, and 13,000 isolation gowns. The supplies from WHO include masks, face shields, goggles and gowns with an approximate value of TOP717,000 (USD320,520). Among these was a large quantity of masks donated to the WHO by the Jack Ma Foundation. The supplies procured by UNICEF include gowns, masks, gloves, goggles, thermometers, pulseoximeters and oxygen concentrators, with an approximate value of TOP 593,000 ($265,000), thanks to support from the ADB.

These essential personal protective equipment and medical devices will ensure that frontline healthcare workers are equipped and protected from potential infection and improves Tonga’s capacity in the clinical management of potential COVID-19 cases.

The Honorable Minister for Health, Associate Professor Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu remarked on the important role personal protective equipment plays in a country’s COVID-19 response. “Around the world we are seeing the critical role adequate PPE plays, in reducing COVID-19 infections in health workers and first responders. Globally, COVID-19 is affecting health workers at higher rates than the general public. We are doing everything we can to ensure our health workers and first responders have the PPE they need to protect themselves from an eventual case of COVID-19. They are the backbone of our response to COVID-19, and we need to make sure they are protected.”

“Although Tonga remains COVID-19 free, frontline medical workers are most at risk of potentially contracting the virus should it enter Tonga’s borders,” said Tatafu Moeaki, Senior Country Officer from ADB’s Pacific Country Office at the handover ceremony. “We will continue to work with UNICEF and our other partners to help the Pacific respond to the pandemic and protect health workers.”

The ADB funding comes from a USD7.9 million grant to support Pacific Island countries in their preparedness and response plans for COVID-19. To date, the total sum of approved ADB COVID-19 assistance to ADB’s Pacific developing member countries in 2020, including co-financing resources and technical assistance is about $USD260 million.

UNICEF Pacific Deputy Representative, Vathinee Jitjaturunt, said, “We are pleased to be working closely with the Government of Tonga, and partners, to ensure that medical supplies will be available during this challenging time.”

Dr Ada Moadsiri from the WHO Country Liaison Office for Tonga, said “We have liaised extensively with the Ministry of Health to ensure that donated supplies will meet the identified needs for Tonga.”

The UN Regional Coordinator’s Office representative for Tonga, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Department of Civil Aviation, and Tonga Airports Limited coordinated and provided in-country logistical support.

Notes to Editors:

The overall support for the Pacific COVID-19 preparedness and response in support of the Pacific islands is coordinated by a Joint Incident Management Team (JIMT). Led by the WHO, the JIMT currently includes representatives from various UN agencies (UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNOCHA, UNRCO, UNW, WFP), the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), US Government, the Pacific Community (SPC) the Pacific Island Health Officers’ Association (PIHOA), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and others.

About WHO:

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nation’s specialized agency for international public health. In the Pacific, WHO’s Division of Pacific Technical Support provides tailored, timely support to 21 Pacific island countries and areas. Our main office is in Suva, Fiji, and the Division has six other offices across the region: The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

About ADB:

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

For more information, please contact:

Zubnah Khan, UNICEF Pacific, Tel: +679 7157586,

Sally Shute-Trembath, ADB Pacific, Tel: +612 82709444,

Dr Ada Moadsiri, WHO Tonga, Tel: +676 23217,

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