Three reasons why personal protective equipment (PPE) supply remains critical
Demand for gloves, masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to grow in response to COVID-19.
In the early days of the pandemic, the demand for quality-assured personal protective equipment (PPE) skyrocketed. This led to severe supply restraints as competition grew between countries. To improve the situation, UNICEF led a joint tender on behalf of 13 United Nations agencies to establish long-term agreements for the supply of PPE. These agreements not only improved affordability and access, but also helped to prevent the risk of stock-outs during future health crises.
The use of personal protective equipment – especially medical masks – has become commonplace for people around the world. However, PPE is much more than medical masks. It includes gowns, googles, gloves, face shields and other items that are used by frontline health care and other essential workers. The proper use of quality-assured PPE is crucial to prevent exposure to infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
The demand for quality-assured PPE remains high. UNICEF continues to play an important role in the procurement and delivery of PPE. In fact, since the pandemic began, UNICEF has shipped more than 653.4 million items of PPE to 140 countries as part of the COVID-19 response.
This is made possible thanks to funding secured through sources such as UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children Appeal and a donation from the Government of Denmark to the ACT-A Supplies Financing Facility (ACT-A SFF).
Here are three reasons why PPE remains an essential supply item.
1. Protecting health workers against COVID-19
Health workers are on the frontline of the pandemic response. They treat and care for patients with COVID-19 and face higher risks in the battle against this disease. PPE forms a barrier between health workers, COVID-19 and other infectious viruses and bacteria, and it is essential so they can continue to work safely and care for their patients.
“When I am protected, I feel safe, but when I see a reduction in supplies, I worry a lot because if we don’t have the protective gear, we get exposed,” said Sister Monica Murungi, Area Manager of the Maternity Department in Rukunyu Hospital, Uganda.
PPE is a critical resource that health workers like Sister Monica need to remain protected and feel safe while on duty.
2. Ensuring essential health care services continue
By providing the necessary equipment to help protect health workers from COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, PPE is directly supporting the continuity of health services such as routine immunization, primary healthcare, and mother and child health programmes.
One of the most essential health services impacted by the pandemic is routine immunization. In 2020 alone, 23 million children missed out on basic childhood vaccines – the highest number since 2009, and 3.7 million more than in 2019. Without the successful rollout of vaccine programmes to tackle diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio, children’s lives remain at risk.
3. Preparedness and response
The threat of disease outbreaks other than COVID-19 has not gone away. PPE remains an indispensable supply item as part of health emergency preparedness and response against potentially fatal communicable diseases. UNICEF continues to ship PPE to support countries as part of their infection prevention and control planning against emerging pathogens like the Ebola, Lassa and Marburg viruses.
In fact, since the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014, UNICEF has worked with partners and industry to develop, standardize and scale-up the production of PPE used in high-risk Ebola treatment units, including coveralls, hoods, masks and gloves. Last year, UNICEF pre-positioned vital supplies including PPE in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the surrounding region as part of the outbreak response.