SUVA, U.S. Embassy in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu — The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United States Government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), have donated essential medical equipment Fiji’s Department of Health and Medical Services will fill the gap in ongoing COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts.
“These medical supplies and equipment will be distributed to all medical facilities throughout the country, which will to some extent contribute to the improvement of the medical service for Fijians,” said the Hon. Minister of Health and Medical Services Dr. Ifereimi Wakainabete. “Our country is currently on the path to social, health and economic recovery from COVID-19 and we are grateful for this generous support as we would not have been on this recovery path without it.”
This medical equipment will benefit more than 600,000 Fijians in the country, including 3,000 healthcare workers. Equipment includes items such as vaccine refrigerators, GeneXpert machines, tents, temperature recorders and swabs, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns and aprons.
“The United States is proud of the partnership we have forged with the Department of Health to respond to COVID-19 in Fiji. We believe this collaboration has been critical to the COVID-19 response efforts and will pave the way to building a stronger and more resilient nation ready to face future challenges,” said Deputy Chief of Mission Rebecca Owen.
The cold chain equipment donated today will greatly enhance the national cold chain capacity to handle COVID-19 vaccines such as Moderna at -15°C to -25°C. They will also allow water bags to be frozen to transport vaccines. In addition, the solar-powered refrigerator/freezer combo will allow vaccines to be stored at +2°C to +8°C in areas without electricity or where there is less than eight hours of reliable electricity per day.
“Proper storage of COVID-19 vaccines ensures a longer shelf life, so UNICEF is excited to work with the US government to fill this gap,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative Jonathan Veitch. “PPE is also invaluable because while vaccines provide protection, they cannot by themselves eliminate transmission.”
The Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services continues to rely on PPE to protect healthcare workers, especially in areas with low vaccination coverage. Without the proper combination of PPE, frontline healthcare workers are at risk of contracting COVID-19 and potentially spreading it to their families as well as their communities.
Personal protective equipment will be distributed to more than 190 vaccination sites at primary health care facilities in Fiji to support infection prevention among healthcare workers during immunization sessions. UNICEF will continue to provide support on the ground, led by the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services, to ensure the protection of the public and health workers.