UNICEF airlifts 68 tonnes of supplies to Liberia, ramping up Ebola response

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MONROVIA, Liberia, 23 August 2014 – A cargo plane carrying 68 metric tonnes of health and hygiene supplies from UNICEF landed in Monrovia early Saturday morning, bringing urgently needed supplies to combat the worst Ebola outbreak in global history.
 
Today’s shipment, from UNICEF’s global supply hub in Copenhagen, contained basic emergency items for front-line health workers to protect themselves and prevent the spread of infection. They included 27 metric tonnes of concentrated chlorine for disinfection and water purification and 450,000 pairs of latex gloves. Also on board were supplies of intravenous fluids, oral rehydration salts and ready-to-use therapeutic food to feed patients undergoing treatment.

The flight was met in Monrovia by representatives of UNICEF and Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Supplies will be distributed to health facilities nationwide, many of which are critically short of basic health care materials. Coupled with a shortage of manpower, this has left thousands of Liberians without access to treatment and essential health care.
 
“UNICEF has been a friend and partner to Liberia for decades and has seen us through some of our darkest days,” said Tolbert Nyenswah, Assistant Minister of Health and Social Welfare and national incidence manager for the Ebola response in Liberia. “We are extremely grateful for these supplies, which will help us to begin disinfecting, resupplying and reopening clinics and hospitals so that they can resume providing essential health services to Liberians.”
 
As of Friday, 20 August, there have been over 1,000 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola in Liberia, with 613 deaths linked to the outbreak. In part the rapid spread of the disease is due to the country’s weakened health care system, which had been seriously damaged by years of civil war. 

“Basic health care cannot be Ebola’s next casualty,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF’s Liberia Country Representative. “UNICEF has been working on multiple fronts since the beginning of the outbreak to provide critically needed supplies as well arming communities with the information they need to stop the spread of the disease. This shipment will complement those efforts with a new surge of supplies to equip health facilities, support infection control, and protect health workers on the front lines.”

The supplies delivered this morning, were procured and delivered with support from USAID’s Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team, which is coordinating US government efforts to stop the spread of Ebola.

“We are facing the most devastating Ebola outbreak in history,” said USAID Ebola Disaster Assistance Response Team Leader Tim Callaghan. “It will take a coordinated global effort to bring this under control. For months, we have been working with UNICEF to ensure that medical equipment and critical messages are getting to the people and places that need it most.”

Next week, UNICEF will airlift additional health supplies on behalf of the Government of Liberia made possible through funding from the World Bank. UNICEF will also be helping the government to assess the country’s supply chain capacity, which has been weakened by the crisis.
 
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 deploying teams of traditional communicators to spread prevention messaging in communities across Liberia, and producing print communications and radio programming to raise public awareness of the outbreak.

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About UNICEF:
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit www.unicef.org.

For more information, please contact:

Rukshan Ratnam, UNICEF Monrovia, Tel: +231-(0)770-25-7111 (office), +231-(0)770-26-7111 (mobile), Email: rratnam@unicef.org 

Joan Howe, UNICEF Supply Division, Copenhagen; Tel: +45 45 33 57 27 (office), +45 29 65 71 94 (mobile), jhowe@unicef.org

Louis Vigneault-Dubois, UNICEF Dakar, Tel: +221 33 869 5862 (office), +221 78 152 68 11 (mobile), lvigneault@unicef.org

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