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GABORONE, Botswana: To augment the ongoing response by the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) to the rapidly escalating COVID-19 pandemic  in Botswana, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Botswana donated lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE) worth more than half a million pula (approximately USD 60,000) to the Ministry. These PPE will be distributed to frontline health workers including those attending to pregnant and lactating women. 

This support from UNFPA to the Government of Botswana was made possible through funding from China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), under the existing framework of the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund (SSCAF) agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic  of  China and UNFPA.

As Botswana is battling the third wave of COVID-19, which is more vicious that the first two, the pandemic has put enormous pressure on health facilities across the country, resulting in critical shortage of PPE. 

“The donation could not have come at a better time than now when the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic is higher, in the process stretching our health facilities and resources to the limit. Our front liners have never been this strained and overwhelmed,” said the Minister of Health & Wellness Dr. Edwin Dikoloti while accepting the commodities on behalf of government. “Botswana like the rest of the world is in dire need of PPEs as the number of new cases continues to grow at an alarming rate. We appreciate our partnership with international development partners such as UNFPA in our collective COVID-19 response efforts.”

The PPEs consist of isolation gowns, examination gloves, surgical gloves, surgical masks, goggles, face shields and coveralls.

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on vulnerable populations including women of reproductive age who are facing greater barriers in accessing maternal health and family planning services, resulting in an increased number of unintended pregnancies.

“While we are providing the critical support to the COVID-19 response efforts, we must ensure continuity of reproductive health services including consistent supply of contraceptives and essential reproductive health commodities to mitigate the impact of the unprecedented pandemic on women and girls,” said UNFPA Head of Office, Ms. Mareledi Segotso.

UNFPA has been working on multiple tracks in support of the health sector response to COVID-19, including ensuring that sexual and reproductive health services become part of essential services, developing different integrated COVID-19 Sexual and Reproductive health services guidelines, tracking availability of Sexual and reproductive Health commodities, and public education on COVID-19.

Ms. Segotso underscored that UNFPA will continue to support the government’s COVID-19 response plans together with other UN agencies and development partners to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on progress towards the three transformative results; ending preventable maternal deaths, ending unmet need for family planning, and ending GBV and harmful practices.

Through this funding from CIDCA, UNFPA received US$500,000. The bulk of this funds has been used to procure contraceptives, which are expected in a few months. While reiterating the continued commitment of China in supporting the Botswana government and UNFPA, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Botswana His Excellency Wang Xuefeng underscored that his government believes in multilateral cooperation and solidarity which is essential to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic globally.

“China will continue to stand side by side with Botswana in facing this severe challenge of the pandemic. We are looking forward to building an even closer partnership with the UNFPA and the Government of Botswana to strengthen mutual trust and coordination in concerted efforts to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for Botswana,” he concluded.

UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, works to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and every young person's potential is fulfilled.

                                                                                                                                                                     -Priscilla Rabasimane