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Lifesaving supplies reach pandemic frontline responders in the southern Philippines

COTABATO CITY, Mindanao, Philippines - Healthcare frontline responders of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have received more than 130,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical supplies from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the Philippines, to protect themselves, their patients and others being supported amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

UNFPA handed the PPE over on 14 May to BARMM Minister of Interior and Local Government, Atty. Naguib G Sinarimbo, who also heads the Bangsamoro Government’s emergency and disaster response office, the Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READI). 

UNFPA’s donation was made possible with support from the Government of Australia.  The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) provided logistical support in transporting the relief items from Manila to Cotabato the day before. 

To date, the BARMM region has confirmed 11 COVID-19 cases, with four deaths, and 281 more suspect cases.

“We, in the Bangsamoro Government along with our constituents, would like to express our utmost appreciation for the unrelenting support of UNFPA and the Government of Australia towards our workers who are at the forefront in this fight against COVID-19. We recognize the contributions of UNFPA from even before this pandemic started. Having UNFPA alongside in this fight boosts our morale and perseverance in finally getting through this tenacious health emergency to make our communities safe and back on their feet once again,” Minister Sinarimbo stated at the hand-over. 

Aside from addressing the shortage of PPE, the Bangsamoro Government is also working to acquire sufficient numbers of ventilators necessary for treating COVID-19 patients, as well as setting up a regional laboratory to help speed up the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in the region.

“While beefing up the testing and treatment capacity for COVID-19, it is critically important to maintain other essential services including for sexual and reproductive health, because if due attention and resources are diverted it may result in an increase in pregnancy complications, maternal mortality and morbidity,” noted Iori Kato, UNFPA Country Representative. “Pregnant and lactating women may be feeling anxiety and difficulty due to COVID-19 and associated quarantine measures. But safe pregnancy can be guaranteed with well-functioning health systems and strict adherence to infection control. This starts with ensuring that obstetricians and gynaecologists, midwives, nurses, and other healthcare workers are also supported and protected. And I would like to reiterate UNFPA’s gratitude to the Government of Australia for making this contribution possible.”

Ever since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the Philippines in January 2020, UNFPA has been supporting the Department of Health (DOH)-led national response, particularly for the protection of frontline health workers. UNFPA had previously donated to DOH a total of nine million pesos (~US$ 178,000) worth of support including hand-held thermometers, surgical masks and other PPE. The assistance from the Government of Australia has enabled UNFPA to further top up these efforts with donations of PPE, Dignity Kits for women and girls of reproductive age, and triage tents to DOH and its designated COVID-19 referral hospitals.

“We are one with the national and local governments in fighting COVID-19. UNFPA, together with all the UN agencies and humanitarian partners in the Philippines, will continue to support the Philippines’ response to this pandemic to the best of our capacity,” Representative Kato said.

UNFPA Philippines is appealing for additional US$ 7.6 million to help save lives of pregnant and lactating mothers, and protect women and young people from violence, while supporting frontline service providers, as part of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19.

For more on this relief mission, and for UNFPA Philippines' wider response to COVID-19, kindly contact Ms Angeli Regala, UNFPA Philippines, regala@unfpa.org

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UNFPA, the UN's sexual and reproductive health agency, works in the Philippines and over 150 other countries globally to achieve zero maternal deaths, zero unmet need for family planning, and zero gender-based violence and other harmful practices against women and girls - a vision enshrined in the Programme of Action stemming from the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

To learn more about our response to COVID-19, visit www.unfpa.org/covid19

To support our lifesaving work amid the pandemic, visit https://donate.unfpa.org/th-en/covid-19