ECONOMYNEXT – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with support from China provided over 300,000 packs of essential medical equipment and supplies worth 800,000 US dollars to Sri Lanka’s Family Health Bureau through the Ministry of Health.

A UNFPA statement said the donation aims to ensure frontline health workers in Sri Lanka have adequate means to safely respond to patients during public health emergencies such as COVID-19.

The statement quoted Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong as saying:“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline healthcare workers have been placing themselves and their families at grave risk to care for those in need of their service. We believe the equipment provided today will go a long way in protecting frontline workers, especially amidst the prevailing socio-economic crisis that is endangering access to such protective equipment.”

The need for such equipment has also been further amplified by the prevailing socio-economic crisis that has prompted the Ministry to cut back on protective equipment requirements for frontline staff, the statement said.

“The 328,660 packs of protective gear handed over today will specifically bridge the gap in medical equipment for health staff working on maternal and child health across the island and strengthen the ministry’s agility in responding to public health emergencies in the future,” said.

Noting that public health workers are stretched thin when it comes to responding to the needs of the public and carry a double burden of physically exposing themselves along with the mental stress of working and coping with emergencies, the UNFPA said the initiative is a scale-up of 3,000 scrubs previously provided to public health midwives in May, through funding from the government of China, to ensure midwives were able to safely deliver community-level maternal and child healthcare. Although the Government has lifted the lockdown, the UNFPA said, the risk of infection remains a reality for health workers.

Health Minister Keheliya Rmbukwella was quoted as saying: “Healthcare workers have been stretched thin with the risk of infection faced in carrying out their duties during public health emergencies. The personal protective equipment (PPE) provided today will help the ministry ensure the safety of our staff as they serve the people of Sri Lanka and strengthen our ability to respond to such emergencies in future.”

The statement quoted UNFPA Representative Kunle Adeniyi  as saying that the healthcare needs of women and girls must be prioritised during times of crisis.

“It is crucial that frontline workers are equipped to respond to their needs.” (Colombo/Jun15/2022)