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Countries with weak health care systems get emergency aid to fight coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus screening at the airport

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The United Nation’s Central Emergency Fund has released USD 15 million to fund vulnerable countries with weak health care systems to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The announcement came as the World Health Organization (WHO) upgraded the global risk of the coronavirus outbreak to very high” – its top level of risk assessment.

In a statement released last evening, the UN humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock said that the emergency grant will support countries with fragile health systems to boost their detection and response efforts with a view of save the lives of millions of vulnerable people.

The funding will be used by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to undertake essential activities such as monitoring the spread of the virus, investigating cases, and operating national laboratories.

UNICEF is leading on preventative actions in communities across the affected countries with risk communication, providing hygiene and medical kits to schools and health clinics and monitoring the impact of the outbreak to support continuity of care, education and social services.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore explained that UNICEF will use its share of the funds to support global efforts to inform children, pregnant women and families about how to protect themselves. “At this pivotal moment” she said, “every effort must be made to push back against the outbreak”.

The head of the World Health Organisation Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the new line of funding would help vulnerable countries to protect frontline workers and treat patients appropriately adding that the potential spread of the virus to countries with weaker health systems are one of the WHO’s primary concerns.

The WHO is calling for USD 675 million to fund the fight against coronavirus. The agency’s chief says that there is a window of opportunity to contain the spread of the virus if countries take robust measures to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts.

Globally, there were 1,739 new confirmed cases during the 24-hour reporting period between Saturday and Sunday. Following a period of decline, the number of confirmed cases in Hubei Province, the epicentre of the virus, has risen over the last two days. WHO announced that it is monitoring the situation, and working to understand its significance.

Five new countries; Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Ireland, Monaco and Qatar have reported cases of COVID-19, the WHO reported in its Sunday situation report on the virus bringing the total number of affected countries to 58.

But Lowcock says that despite this, it is not too late to contain COVID-19: “We do not yet see evidence that the virus is spreading freely. As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing it”.

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