The World Health Organization (WHO), the Government of Japan and the governments of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of Palau are partnering to improve preparedness and response to COVID-19 in all three Pacific regions. island countries. The Government of Japan is providing funding of US$697,101 through WHO for the project focused on the remote and outlying islands of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
The partnership comes at an opportune time as several countries and regions across the Pacific respond to COVID-19 cases and community transmission for the first time. Palau faced a temporary increase in active cases from December 2021 to March 2022, resulting in nearly 4,000 cumulative cases, all reported in 2022. While the Marshall Islands reported only four imported cases in 2020 and the FSM have had no cases so far, it is likely that the virus will eventually enter the countries at some point.
This latest partnership builds on two years of COVID-19 preparedness efforts in the Pacific. The Marshall Islands, FSM and Palau heeded WHO warnings in early 2020 and since then have implemented measures such as effective border controls, preparation of care unit beds intensive care units and isolation units and, more recently, the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines. However, people living in the outer islands of the Pacific are at greater risk if COVID-19 strikes due to the shortage of health workers, facilities and services in these remote areas and the difficulty of access. to the main islands for these services.
The one-year project will address these urgent needs by strengthening and establishing national emergency medical teams, providing logistical and capacity-building support, pre-positioning essential equipment and supplies, and engaging with health workers and communities in the remote islands of the Marshall Islands, FSM and Palau.
National Emergency Medical Teams (EMTs) are made up of medical professionals – such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, logisticians – who deploy and respond quickly to sudden emergencies or disease outbreaks. WHO is supporting and coordinating the EMT initiative across the Pacific with five countries having fully established their own national EMTs. The project will accelerate these efforts to initiate, train and improve readiness for deployment of the Marshall Islands Medical Assistance Team (MI-MAT) in the Marshall Islands, KLEMAT in Palau and four other teams – one for each state – in FSMs. .
The project will also involve the training of emergency medical teams and health workers in clinical management and infection prevention and control, as well as technicians and logisticians to support logistics and maintenance of the emergency preparedness. Essential medical equipment and supplies and communication satellite phones will be procured and pre-positioned. In addition, risk communication and community engagement will be strengthened to help people understand how to safely care for mildly ill family members at home.
Quotes from partners:
Dr Marc JacobsWHO Representative in the South Pacific and Director of Pacific Technical Support:
“Supporting Pacific Island countries and territories in COVID-19 preparedness and response continues to be a critical area of work for us. As we see an increase in COVID-19 cases in the Pacific, it is all the more important that we strengthen these measures to protect people on hard-to-reach outer islands. We thank the governments of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau for their leadership and the government of Japan for their contribution to ensuring that we save lives.
Quotes from Ministries of Health
Honorable Bruce BilimonMinister of Health and Human Services, Republic of the Marshall Islands:
“Marshall Islands established our national EMT called MI-MAT (Marshall Islands Medical Assistance Team” with the support of WHO. We are very proud that MI-MAT has already been deployed for drought response and we hope this additional support from Japan will boost the team’s ability to prepare for COVID-19 and protect the people of our neighboring islands.
Honorable Marcus SamoSecretary of Health and Social Welfare, Federated States of Micronesia:
“The FSM consists of four states in four different islands with many scattered islands, which poses a significant geographic challenge for timely emergency response. All states in the country have an emergency response system in place, but no full-scale EMT program. Through this partnership with Japan and WHO, all FSM States will strengthen their preparedness for COVID-19 and other health emergencies.
Honorable Gaafar J. UherbelauMinister of Health and Social Services, Republic of Palau:
“Palau’s ETM known as KLEMAT, means the rope that holds the sails of our traditional canoes. This means good navigation, good governance and good leadership. As we would like Palau to be fully prepared for a new outbreak of COVID-19 or any other outbreak, I look forward to this valuable partnership with the Government of Japan and WHO to make KLEMAT a beacon of hope to protect the health and life of our people. . “
Japanese Embassies Quotes
SE KARASAWA AkiraJapanese Ambassador to the Republic of Palau:
“The spike in COVID-19 cases in Palau since last December has made clear the importance of the Ministry of Health and Human Services emergency operations team. I hope this project will help build the team’s capabilities as a new showcase for Japan’s assistance to Palau in the medical field.
HE MICHIGAMI HisashiJapanese Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM):
“The FSM is one of the few COVID-19-free countries in the world, but there is a need to prepare for when COVID-19 finally arrives in the FSM. I hope this project will help strengthen the medical preparedness of WSF based on the exceptional cooperation between Japan and WHO.”
HE TANAKA KazunariJapanese Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands:
“The Republic of the Marshall Islands is one of the few countries that has maintained freedom from COVID-19 through strict immigration control measures and promotion of vaccination, although the islands’ vaccination rate outskirts is lower than that of the capital. It is expected that this project, together with the provision of a medical vessel by Japan to RMI, will strengthen RMI’s medical services for infectious diseases, including COVID-19 in the outer islands.
Technical Officer (Communications, Resource Mobilization and External Relations)
WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific – Pacific Technical Support Division
Telephone: +679 777 9733
E-mail: [email protected]