COVID-19: Major flexible funding from GAVI proved crucial for Myanmar’s effective response

As international commercial flights remain temporarily suspended as part of the measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19, the World Food Programme (WFP), on behalf of the United Nations in Myanmar, is launching a series of humanitarian flights linking Yangon and Kuala Lumpur to bring in humanitarian cargo and personnel.  PHOTO: United Nations in Myanmar
As international commercial flights remain temporarily suspended as part of the measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19, the World Food Programme (WFP), on behalf of the United Nations in Myanmar, is launching a series of humanitarian flights linking Yangon and Kuala Lumpur to bring in humanitarian cargo and personnel.  PHOTO: United Nations in Myanmar

During the onset of the pandemic, the emergency re-allocation of US$8.8 million from the over US$85 million Health System Strengthening (HSS-2) Gavi-funded programme was crucial to Myanmar’s effective response to COVID-19 and the quick resumption of life-saving services by the Ministry of Health and Sports, supported by UNICEF and WHO and other partners.
“With the re-allocation of the funds from Gavi, the Ministry of Health and Sports strengthened community engagement and risk communications, and infection prevention and control and case management, as well as implemented enhanced disease surveillance and preventive measures, laboratory readiness and coordination,” said Dr Myint Htwe, Union Minster of the Ministry of Health and Sports.
UNICEF and WHO supported the Government of Myanmar with the procurement of 20,000 Cobas 6800 testing kits, 30,000-each specimen carriers and universal transport media, 370 Oxygen Concentrators, laboratory reagents, US$3.75 million worth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, and dissemination of communication materials in Myanmar and 85 ethnic languages, as well as capacity building of health workers.
“Gavi was the first to offer the re-allocation of funds for prevention, control and containment of COVID-19 response. We appreciate Gavi’s quick response to the situation in allowing for the reallocation of the HSS-2 grant for the prevention and control of the COVID-19 outbreak in Myanmar,” said Dr Stephan Jost, WHO Representative to Myanmar.
The support from Gavi was also key in the resumption of routine immunisation services after only six weeks of suspension. Taking necessary infection prevention measures, physical distancing and hand hygiene practices, national routine immunisation re-started in hospitals in all 330 townships and in 98 large hospitals from 18 May 2020 and expanded to nationwide outreach services in June. Despite restriction measures and apprehension in the community, more than 110,000 children came forward to take their third dose of pentavalent vaccine in the month of June. This is about one-and-half times more children who took the vaccine in the same period last year.
Prior to COVID-19, Gavi has supported key immunisation programmes in Myanmar including:
• The nationwide Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccination campaign, with high coverage and subsequent introduction of JE vaccine to routine immunisation in 2018;
• The measles and rubella nationwide campaign, successfully completed in 2019 in
two phases;
• The introduction of Rota vaccine into routine immunisation in February 2020. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is expected to be introduced in September this year.
“Gavi congratulates the Ministry of Health and Sports for the effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic and we are glad that we could contribute to the national response plan with our funding. We are particularly impressed with the resumption of routine immunisation in June and the promising catch-up of missed children and coverage rates across the country,” said Pascal Bijleveld, Director, Country Support, Gavi. Gavi has been supporting Myanmar since 2002 and as of December 2019 it has provided a cumulative total amount of US$216 million for various programmes.
“As we continue our programmes and activities through ‘COVID-safe’ engagement modalities, we look forward to our continued and collective partnership, with special thanks to Gavi and all of its donors, so that we may continue to respond to the threats and risks posed by the pandemic while restoring and expanding services to reach all children and communities in Myanmar,” said June Kunugi, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar.
“Together, we can re-imagine a better future for children and their families in Myanmar.” Source: Joint Press Relese (Gavi, WHO, UNICEF, MOHS)

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