Fiji, the UN and partners deploy medical personnel and supplies in solidarity with Tuvalu's Covid-19 response effort
NADI – A chartered flight bound for Tuvalu left Fiji today carrying 500kg of medical supplies as well as health experts to support the country’s response to its first wave of community transmission of COVID-19. The flight was chartered by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) through its Pacific Humanitarian Air Service.
The plane transported members of the Fiji Emergency Medical Assistance Team (FEMAT), a Tuvaluan laboratory expert and two World Health Organization (WHO) personnel. The plane also carried rapid antigen test kits from UNICEF and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), and therapeutics from WHO.
“We are proud to have been able to play our part in transporting the support offered by Fiji, the UN and other partners to Tuvalu. In testing times like these, we hope that this timely assistance will boost Tuvalu’s efforts as they seek to slow the spread of the virus and save lives,” said Mr Alpha Bah, WFP Pacific Country Director and Representative.
FEMAT is an initiative of the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services, trained and equipped with support from WHO, and has played an instrumental role in Fiji’s response to a number of emergencies, including the country’s COVID-19 response. The deployment to Tuvalu is FEMAT’s first international assistance mission. Meanwhile, the WHO personnel who travelled on the flight will join a previously deployed expert in clinical management and will support the Tuvaluan Ministry of Health, Social Welfare and Gender Affairs with the collection and analysis of COVID-19 data as well as risk communication and community engagement.
“Our team has been in near constant contact with our Tuvaluan colleagues who are currently working day and night to respond to their first community transmission of COVID-19,” said WHO South Pacific Officer in Charge, Dr Nuha Mahmoud. “They are basically in the situation right now that many of us faced a year or two ago. We are therefore extremely thankful to WFP for offering us the opportunity of harnessing the Pacific Humanitarian Air Service once again to get support to Tuvalu at the time they need it most.”
After more than two-and-a-half years without any cases of COVID-19 aside from those detected at the border, Tuvalu reported its first instance of community transmission on 03 November 2022. Thanks to the rapid launch of a widespread contact tracing campaign carried out in conjunction with the Tuvalu Red Cross, the Ministry of Health, Social Welfare and Gender Affairs has now detected a total of 1,532 cases as of 14 November.
Thankfully, 98 percent of the eligible population aged over five is protected from severe outcomes by COVID-19 vaccines, which is keeping hospitalization rates low. So far, 99.6 percent of COVID-19 cases in Tuvalu are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms and have been asked to recover at home.
Generous funding from partners like the Government of Australia, the European Union and the United States of America has made this flight and the deployment of health expertise and supplies possible. So far, WFP has operated 41 flights transporting 328 mt of critical medical and relief cargo across the region.
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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nation’s specialized agency for international public health. In the Pacific, WHO’s Division of Pacific Technical Support provides tailored, timely support to 21 Pacific Island countries and areas. Our main office is in Suva, Fiji, and the Division has six other offices across the region: The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
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