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COTABATO CITY, Mindanao, The Philippines - Healthcare frontliners of Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) received more than 130,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the Philippines, for the protection of themselves, patients and others in providing care amid the COVID-19 outbreak in the region.

UNFPA handed the PPE over today to BARMM Minister of Interior and Local Government, Atty. Naguib G Sinarimbo, who also heads the Bangsamoro Government’s emergency and disaster response office, the Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READI).  UNFPA’s donation of PPE to BARMM-READI was made possible with support from the Government of Australia.  The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) provided logistical support in transporting the relief items from Manila to Cotabato the day before. 

To date, the BARMM region has confirmed 11 COVID-19 cases, with four deaths, and 281 more suspect cases. “We, in the Bangsamoro Government along with our constituents, would like to express our utmost appreciation for the unrelenting support of UNFPA and the Government of Australia towards our workers who are at the forefront in this fight against COVID-19. We recognize the contributions of UNFPA from even before this pandemic started. Having UNFPA alongside in this fight boosts our morale and perseverance in finally getting through this tenacious health emergency to make our communities safe and back on their feet once again,” Minister Sinarimbo stated at the hand-over.  Aside from addressing the shortage of PPE, the Bangsamoro Government is also solving the insufficiency of ventilators necessary for treating COVID-19 patients, as well as setting up a regional laboratory to help speed up the confirmation of COVID-19 cases in the region.

“While beefing up the testing and treatment capacity for COVID-19, it is critically important to maintain other essential services including for sexual and reproductive health, because if due attention and resources are diverted it may result in an increase in pregnancy complications, maternal mortality, and morbidity,” said Mr. Iori Kato, UNFPA Country Representative. “The pregnant and lactating women may be feeling the anxiety and difficulty due to COVID-19 and associated quarantine measures. But, safe pregnancy can be guaranteed with well-functioning health systems and strict adherence to infection control. This starts with ensuring that OB/GYN, midwives, nurses, and other healthcare workers are also supported and protected. And I would like to reiterate UNFPA’s gratitude to the Government of Australia for making this contribution possible.”

Ever since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the Philippines in January 2020, UNFPA has been supporting the Department of Health (DOH) led national response, particularly for the protection of frontline health workers. UNFPA had previously donated to DOH a total of nine million pesos worth of support including hand-held thermometers, surgical masks, PPE, etc. The assistance from the Government of Australia has enabled UNFPA to further top up these efforts with donations of PPE, Dignity Kits, and triage tents to DOH and its designated COVID-19 referral hospitals.

“We are one with the national and local governments in fighting COVID-19. UNFPA, together with all the UN agencies and humanitarian partners in the Philippines, will continue to support the Philippines’ response to this pandemic to the best of our capacity,” Mr. Kato said. UNFPA Philippines is appealing for additional $7.6 million US dollars to help save lives of pregnant and lactating mothers, and protect women and young people from violence, while supporting front-line service providers, as part of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19.



About UNFPA in the Philippines:

The United Nations Population Fund is the sexual and reproductive health agency of the United Nations System, working towards achieving “Three Zeros” everywhere by 2030: zero unmet need for modern contraception; zero preventable maternal deaths; and zero gender-based violence and other harmful practices against women and girls including child marriage - a vision stemming from the Programme of Action of the landmark 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) leading towards Agenda 2030 including the SDGs.

UNFPA is currently working with national and local governments of the Philippines to address the unique needs of women and young people faced in the COVID-19 pandemic.