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Unicef undertakes delivery of vaccines

Sar Socheath, Brian Badzmierowski and Tith Kongnov / Khmer Times Share:
Cambodian migrant workers returning to the country through O’Smach International Border Checkpoint wait for testing and to go to a quarantine centre. Fresh News

United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) yesterday offered to deliver up to 850 tonnes of the COVID-19 vaccines that Cambodia will order via Covax every month starting next year.

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However, Unicef which is in the midst of outlining the plan to transport this “mammoth and historic” logistic operation did not disclose as to when they will start transporting the vaccines.

On behalf of the Covax facility, Unicef in partnership with the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) and World Health Organization (WHO)  in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization will help 92 low-and lower-middle-income countries including Cambodia to receive the vaccines.

Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore said: “The scale of the task is daunting, and the stakes have never been higher, but we are ready to take this on”.

In Cambodia, Unicef is working with the Ministry of Health and the WHO to prepare the country for the roll-out of the eventual vaccines. The partners are working together to develop strategies for deployment, assess vaccine management and cold chain capacity, support the application of cold chain equipment aid from Gavi, develop a plan for old cold chain equipment replacement, estimate operational costs and needs and prepare communications, advocacy and demand generation.

At the sub-national level, Unicef will support the government of Cambodia with community mobilisation and engagement, while helping monitor and evaluate the roll-out of vaccines.

Unicef said commercial airlines will be able to deliver vaccines to almost all 92 low-and-lower-middle-income countries, which are among the 190 economies participating in the Covax Facility, at an estimated cost of up to $70 million.

One major challenge in the COVID-19 vaccine operation is local cold chain capacity for vaccine storage within some low- and lower-middle-income countries.

With support from Gavi, Unicef will continue to procure and support the installation of 70,000 cold-chain fridges in lower-income countries by the end of 2021, which will help in the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines that need to be stored at two to eight degrees Celsius. Almost half of these will be solar-powered.

Unicef has called for $410 million to help countries with the delivery of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostic tools next year and estimates a funding gap of $133 million to cover in-country vaccine logistics and the required cold chain equipment for the poorest 92 countries.

On December 8, Cambodia announced the plan to buy vaccines to provide for the citizens free of charge. Since then, foreign investors, local tycoons, civil servants, and the general public have donated their funds.

Cambodia has so far recorded 363 confirmed cases with 347 recoveries and no fatalities.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday ordered the delivery of 6,000 aid kits to Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Oddar Meanchey to be used for migrant workers returning home from Thailand.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Youk Sambath said each of the three provinces had already received 2,000 kits which include mosquito nets, pillows,  mats, tents and chairs.

According to AFP, Thailand’s COVID-19 cases at a seafood market in Samut Sakhon province rose to over 1,000 yesterday.

Although the government urged Cambodians to remain working in Thailand, many are returning home via the three international border checkpoints.

Banteay Meanchey provincial governor Oum Reatrey said the Poipet border checkpoint has been closed since yesterday due to lack of quarantine facilities and those returning were re-directed to the O’ Beichoan checkpoint. A total of  270 Cambodian migrant workers were ferried in 30 military trucks to their quarantine centres.

Oddar Meanchey  provincial deputy governor Dy Rado said 158 migrant workers who entered via the O’Smach border checkpoint were taken in 15 trucks to their centres while the director of Battambang’s information department, Suos Sopheak, said 71 migrant workers who arrived at the Doung border checkpoint were also quarantined.

Meanwhile, Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng has ordered no gatherings and concerts for New Year’s Eve to prevent new COVID-19 outbreaks

He also directed the 14 district directors to inform people of the disease and follow the SOP, especially with many making preparations to usher in the New Year.

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