A cargo plane carrying 68 metric tonnes of health and hygiene supplies from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) landed in Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia early Saturday morning, delivering urgently needed supplies to combat the worst Ebola outbreak in global history.
Basic emergency items needed by front-line health workers to protect themselves and prevent the spread of infection were procured and delivered with the support of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team, which is coordinating US government efforts to stop the spread of Ebola. These items included 27 metric tonnes of concentrated chlorine for disinfection and water purification and 450,000 pairs of latex gloves. The shipment also includes supplies of intravenous fluids, oral rehydration salts and ready-to-use therapeutic food that will be used to help patients undergoing treatment.
The shipment was received in Monrovia by representatives of UNICEF and Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, for distribution to health facilities nationwide. Many have suffered from a shortage of supplies and manpower, leaving thousands of Liberians without access to treatment and essential health care.
“UNICEF has been a friend and partner to Liberia for decades and has seen us through some of our darkest days,” said Tolbert Nyenswah, Assistant Minister of Health and Social Welfare and national incidence manager for the Ebola response in Liberia. “We are extremely grateful for these supplies, which will help us to begin disinfecting, resupplying and reopening clinics and hospitals so that they can resume providing essential health services to Liberians.”
As of 20 August, over 1,000 cases have been attributed to Ebola in Liberia. One of the reasons for the continued spread of the disease in Liberia has been a weakening of the post-conflict country’s already constrained health care system.
“Basic health care cannot be Ebola’s next casualty,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF’s Liberia Country Representative. “UNICEF has been working on multiple fronts since the beginning of the outbreak to provide critically needed supplies as well arming communities with the information they need to stop the spread of the disease. This shipment will complement those efforts with a new surge of supplies to equip health facilities, support infection control, and protect health workers on the front lines.”
“We are facing the most devastating Ebola outbreak in history,” said USAID Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader Tim Callaghan. “It will take a coordinated global effort to bring this under control. For months, we have been working with UNICEF to ensure that medical equipment and critical messages are getting to the people and places that need it most.”
Next week, UNICEF will airlift additional health supplies on behalf of the Government of Liberia made possible with funding from the World Bank. UNICEF will also be supporting government efforts to assess the country’s supply chain capacity, given complexities in procurement and delivery that have been exacerbated by the crisis.
In coordination with the National Ebola Task Force, UNICEF has already provided over US$2 million in material and technical support, including the distribution of health supplies; protective gear for health workers; chlorine, sprayers and other water, sanitation and hygiene equipment to support infection control; motorcycles and other logistical support to facilitate the movement of community health workers and other partners in the response; and coordinating a large-scale social mobilization effort, including deploying teams of traditional communicators to spread prevention messaging, and the production of print communications and radio programming to raise public awareness of the outbreak in communities across Liberia.
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