UN launches emergency supply chain task force

17 April 2020

An emergency supply chain task force has been set up by the United Nations (UN) to scale up the procurement of medical and protective equipment during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are coordinating on the initiative, which will ship millions of items including personal protective gear, respirators, lab equipment and oxygen.

Speaking at a briefing, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “This emergency supply chain is designed to cover more than 30% of the world’s needs in the acute phase of the pandemic.

“It will have hubs in eight countries and will deploy sixteen 747s and medium-sized cargo aircraft, plus passenger planes.” 

Supply chain hubs will be located in Belgium, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malaysia, Panama, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

“Every month, we will need to ship at least 100m medical masks and gloves, up to 25m N95 respirators, gowns and face-shields, up to 2.5m diagnostic tests, and large quantities of oxygen concentrators and other equipment for clinical care,” said Dr Tedros.

The director-general added: “Clearly the associated costs will be substantial. The WFP estimates it will need approximately $280m, simply to cover the costs of storing and moving supplies. The costs of procuring supplies will be much greater.

“We urge donors to support this vitally important system.  We call on all donors to support the World Food Programme.”

Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, added: “We have produced a global catalogue for that equipment and are endeavouring to work with our partner agencies and donors to do bulk purchasing of that material in order to distribute that in a more equitable way around the world.”

On Tuesday (14 April), US president Donald Trump announced he was suspending funding to the WHO after he criticised the organisation's response to coronavirus. He said the body had "failed in its basic duty".

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