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UNFPA ensures continuity of health services by donating protective equipment for Frontline Healthcare Workers

“One of our challenges is that we wear the same surgical masks for three to five days without being provided with new ones,” lamented a healthcare worker as quoted by the Times of Eswatini on around the 29th December 2020.

The health care workers had stopped working and abondoned sosme clients as they pleaded with government to provide them with personal protective equipment (PPE). The lack of PPE, as described by the health care workers, compromised their safety as they feared getting infected with the corona virus while offering services to their clients.

“Recently, we had nine staff members who tested positive for COVID-19, and that’s the reason we are pleading with management to do something,” continued the healthcare worker.

Subsequently, UNFPA Eswatini donated protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers in responding to this situation in the country. This was delivered to the Ministry of Health at Central Medical Stores facility in Matsapha on Wednesday 20th January 2021. The PPE comprises 3,000 coveralls, 2,020 disposable aprons, 6,000 surgical gowns, 30,000 surgical masks, and 6,000 N95 masks valued at 3 Million Emalangeni.

Making her remarks, Head of Office Margaret Thwala-Tembe expressed UNFPA's concerns with the safety of health care workers whilst delivering on their work.

“We are handing over personal protective equipment for healthcare workers as frontline workers in the COVID_19 response. This is mainly what healthcare workers need to protect themselves as they offer essential health services to the people during this pandemic.”

She further explained that the purchase was in line with UNFPA's global response to the pandemic, which fosters continuity of sexual and reproductive health services and interventions, including protection of the health workforce through health systems strengthening.

“As UNFPA, we want to ensure that health services, especially integrated SRH services, continue to reach out to women and girls and ensuring that women do not die while giving life,” she added.

Minister of Health Senator Lizzie Nkosi received the PPE. In her remarks, she pointed out that “the safety of all healthcare workers is a top priority. They have been working hard during this difficult time offering services to clients. We really appreciate this donation of PPE from UNFPA, our key partner in maternal health.

“We will put this to good use,” the Honorable Senator assured.

She further commented on the timeliness of the arrival of the much needed PPE from UNFPA during the first wave as well as during the second wave of COVID-19.

"This support is a huge boost to the current situation. The store manager can attest that a stock out was looming. About 2 months’ supply was remaining."

The availability of personal protective equipment is crucial in Eswatini, particularly as COVID-19 seems to be spreading like a wild winter fire. At the time of making the donation, confirmed cases in Eswatini had reached 13,443 and about 5% of these cases were recorded among healthcare workers. So far, Eswatini has lost two healthcare workers to COVID19 (Ministry of Health, National Situation Report).