Monrovia, Liberia — The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) airlifted 100 metric tonnes of health and hygiene supplies to Liberia's Roberts International Airport Tuesday morning, strengthening national efforts to combat the Ebola epidemic that has infected thousands in Liberia since emerging in March.
The shipment of emergency supplies was procured by the Government of Liberia with funding from the World Bank, and was undertaken by UNICEF. This is the second airlift of critically needed supplies that UNICEF has delivered this week, following an earlier airlift of 68 metric tonnes of health and hygiene supplies procured with USAID assistance on Saturday. Both shipments have comprised part of the largest emergency supply operation in UNICEF's history in a single month.
Among the items included in today's airlift were hundreds of sets of personal protective equipment, which is of particular significance, given the devastating toll the outbreak has taken on health workers in the country, accounting for over 130 reported cases of Ebola infection. Other items included latex gloves, thermometers, syringes and other medical supplies to restock depleted stores at many of the country' s health facilities, with the aim of enabling them to resume providing service.
Receiving the shipment at Monrovia's Roberts International Airport were the World Bank Liberia Country Manager, UNICEF Country Representative, and representatives of Liberia's Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, which will be distributing the supplies to health facilities nationwide. Many of the country's hospitals and clinics have been forced to close due to a shortage of supplies and manpower since the outbreak began, leaving thousands of Liberians without access to essential health care.
"The Government of Liberia's priority is to ensure that all health centres are open and fully functioning as soon as possible," said Liberia's Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Walter Gwenigale. "The rapid arrival of these supplies was essential for ensuring that we could do so."
Receiving the medical supplies at the airport, World Bank Liberia Country Manager Inguna Dobraja described the provision of essential medical supplies to combat Ebola as timely. "We are optimistic that these essential medical supplies will be immediately deployed throughout Liberia to meet the growing health needs of Liberians," she said. "The procurement and shipment of these urgently needed medical supplies to Liberia in a timely fashion was a good example of inter-agency collaboration."
"UNICEF is fighting this outbreak on multiple fronts" said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Liberia Country Representative. "We will continue to work with the Government of Liberia and other partners to ensure that children in this country have access to health and other critical services," he added.
UNICEF has already provided over US$2 million in material and technical support, including:
- health supplies;
- protective gear for health workers;
- chlorine, sprayers and other water, sanitation and hygiene equipment to support infection control;
- motorcycles and other logistical support to enable community health workers and other partners to move around the communities.
UNICEF is also continuing to deploy teams of traditional communicators to spread prevention messaging in communities across Liberia, to promote behaviour changes that will help individuals and their communities protect themselves from the disease. UNICEF is also ramping up efforts address water, sanitation and hygiene needs associated with the outbreak, ensure that appropriate child protection mechanisms are in place, and that children can continue to receive an education in the wake of the crisis.