The UN Technology Bank says local production of essential COVID-19-fighting equipment will not only support the immediate response to the pandemic but also help countries recover from the socio-economic impact of the crisis.
The United Nations Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries is UN’s global organisation dedicated to enhancing the contribution of science, technology and innovation for sustainable development in the world’s 47 least developed countries.
Joshua Setipa, Managing Director, UN Technology Bank, in an Op-ed to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos through the `GlobalHealthStrategies’, said that local production of essential COVID-19 fighting equipment would also ensure preparedness for future infectious disease threats.
He said that new partnerships must be formed to address major supply shortages.
“Leaders from governments, private sector, multilateral organisations and civil society must form new partnerships to enhance manufacturing capacity across the developing world.
“The new coronavirus has exposed the staggeringly uneven distribution of life-saving medical equipment across the world.
“Ventilators are an essential tool in the treatment of respiratory illnesses, including severe cases of COVID-19, yet across 41 African countries there are fewer than 2,000 ventilators serving hundreds of millions of people.
“Empowering developing countries to produce life-saving equipment themselves will help ensure they can protect their population without having to compete for supplies on the global market or relying on international aid.
“Local production will not only support the immediate response to this pandemic but also help countries recover from the socio-economic impacts of the crisis and ensure they are prepared for future infectious disease threats,’’ Setipa said.
He said that the Technology Access Partnership (TAP) could help address major global shortages of essential equipment such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), ventilators and diagnostics.
According to him, TAP is a new COVID-19 response initiative launched on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, aimed at increasing local production of critical health tools in developing countries.
He cited a recent investigation by the New York Times which identified that 10 African countries had no ventilators at all.
“From masks and gloves to diagnostic kits and materials, already vulnerable nations are under-equipped, even in ‘normal’ circumstances.
“Now the pandemic has compounded what is already an acute problem by breaking supply chains and spurring stockpiling amongst those who can afford it.
“Nations without the influence or affluence to secure orders of protective equipment, diagnostics and medical devices find their response to this pandemic severely limited.
“Weak health systems are quickly overwhelmed, leaving millions to choose between risking infection from coronavirus or foregoing treatment at clinics for other critical health conditions.
“This dire situation brings with it an unprecedented opportunity to build local manufacturing capability across the developing world and empowering countries to ensure their population get the equipment they need,’’ he said.
According to him, doing so will not only support the immediate response to this pandemic but create more resilient health systems and supply chains going forward,’’ he said.