Japan gives P190M for vaccine storage
The Japanese government has pledged P190 million to strengthen the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s (Unicef) support for the Philippines’ COVID-19 immunization response.
“The costs of the pandemic for children are immediate and, if unaddressed, may persist throughout their lives. The availability and equitable distribution of vaccines is critical for putting an end to this global pandemic,” Unicef representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said in a statement.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, immunization in the Philippines has been declining.
In the 2017 Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), the immunization coverage for 1- to 2-year-old children for all essential vaccines is low at 69.9 percent, far below the 95-percent target.
In 2019, the Philippines was among the Top 10 countries globally with the highest number of unvaccinated children for DPT3 and measles vaccine.
The new funding will enable Unicef in the Philippines to provide around 147 health facilities with vaccine cold rooms and solar refrigerators and 2,000 health facilities with temperature-monitoring devices.
It will also provide training to over 50 technicians to operate and maintain the new facilities, and equip 300 health-care facility staff with the necessary skills.
Other components of the program include the development of immunization policy and procedures; building surveillance and in-country laboratory capacities for the early detection, investigation and management of vaccine-preventable diseases; and management and strengthening of information management systems.
“We will continue to provide a helping hand to Filipino children in dire situations due to COVID-19. We trust that the strong ties between Japan and the Philippines will be deepened even amid this rapidly changing environment,” said Japanese Ambassador Koshikawa Kazuhiko in a statement.
Top aid donor
As part of its support to the government’s COVID-19 response, Unicef said it would continue to lead efforts to procure and supply COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of the COVAX Facility, securing access to safe injection equipment and cold chain equipment, and supporting country readiness efforts for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
The P190 million is part of the Japanese government’s assistance to 25 countries in the Southeast and Southwest Asian and Pacific Island region amounting to a total of $41 million.
Despite its current economic difficulties, Japan continues to be the country’s top aid donor as it has been over the past 23 years and, for the past 10 years, more than half of the total foreign assistance to the Philippines has been extended by Japan. Japanese assistance to the Philippines has also been funneled through multilateral donors such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and various UN agencies, like Unicef.
Last year, Japan extended a P944-million grant to the Department of Health for state-of-the-art medical equipment, like CT scanners, X-ray machines, MRI systems and hemodialysis machines, to be installed in key hospitals and medical institutions.
It also includes the setting up of laboratory surveillance sites across the country to augment the health sector’s capacity to address COVID-19 and other emerging or reemerging diseases in the future.Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, Japan has extended emergency grant assistance equivalent to almost $5.8 million to front-liners through the Philippine Red Cross and UN agencies.
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