One year ago, WHO created the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to respond to the unprecedented show of support by individuals and companies to help WHO in the fight against COVID-19.
Powered by the UN Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation, it was developed as an innovative platform to enable private companies, individuals, and other organizations to contribute directly to WHO’s efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to COVID-19 around the world.
Theoretically, the funds have been used to provide millions of frontline workers with critical personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and testing kits among others. But this is not so in countries such as Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and a host of other African countries. Since mid-2020, the year COVID-19 was declared beginning with China, medical and other frontline health workers have been on the streets protesting lack of protective gear.
Dr. Elizabeth Gitau, Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Medical Association is quoted in the press saying as essential health workers take care of patients with COVID-19, they require personal protective equipment (PPE) that include surgical masks, respirators (N95 masks), eye protection (goggles), latex gloves, boots, long-sleeve gowns, and hazmat suits.
But health workers have complained about a shortage of public protective equipment (PPE), saying their lives are at risk. The state body responsible for purchases, the Kenya Medical Supply Authority (Kemsa), has been in the news for a year for all other reasons but facilitating provisions of PPEs to frontline health workers.
While the WHO alleges that it has since the beginning of the pandemic, shipped nearly 250 million items of personal protective equipment and vital medical supplies including oxygen across more than 150 countries, in most African countries, doctors and nurses working in public hospitals have during the same period been more on striking over lack of PPEs, such as protective suits, goggles, and sanitizer, to use than actually treating patients.
According to the WHO, more than 661 000 donors have contributed nearly US$ 250 million, the situation has not changed for frontline health workers in many of the African countries.
While donors have been generous, according to the words of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, the people who needed that support most are however still exposed, and most are dying due to COVID-19 infections without PPEs.