WHO Bhutan donates emergency equipment

WHO country representative Dr. Rui Paulo and GNHC Secretary Rinchen Wangdi sign a handing-taking letter of emergency equipment

Emergency equipment for disaster preparedness and responses worth US $ 253,045.13 donated to GNHC

LHAKPA TSHERING | Thimphu

The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Office for Bhutan donated emergency equipment to the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) for disaster preparedness and responses on 28 March in Thimphu.

The emergency equipment worth US $ 253,045.13 includes 200 portable toilets, 200 portable hand-washing stations, 25 emergency shelter tents, and 200 radio sets to support the government in the fight against Covid-19.

The equipment will be made available to frontline workers including healthcare workers deployed at the borders to help ensure their protection while facing the Covid-19 pandemic.

WHO country representative Dr. Rui Paulo de Jesus said the equipment is expected to help the government respond to Covid-19. “We understand the challenges, particularly frontline workers in guarding the long and porous borders. These are the basic things that we can support,” he said.

He however said that the equipment is not specifically provided for Covid-19, but it can be used for any other activities including response to any emergency in the country. “Emergency shelter tent is multi-functional including other equipment as well,” he added.

In addition, Dr. Rui Paulo said that radio sets will make communications and coordination much easier within and among the teams. “Communication during emergencies is really important, therefore, we understand the challenge,” he said.

“I am happy that you (GNHC) are going to prepare a standard operating procedure (SOP) on who is responsible for the deployment and the maintenance of the equipment. So I think this is a good idea,” he continued, adding the need for timely maintenance of the equipment.

GNHC Secretary RinchenWangdi said it is enormous support provided in this critical time and at the need of the hour for desuups and during emergencies. “This is a very good initiative from your end at the official and personal level,” he said.

He added that they would come up with the plans for distribution, management, and maintenance including the sustainability of the equipment that was provided at the very limited resource. “We are equally concerned on the way forward, management, and maintenance which are very critical,” he said. “De-suung is a well-organized organization and it is in the good hands of desuups.”

With his sincere thanks to the partner for its involvement and collaboration, RinchenWangdi said, “We are very happy and we look forward to the similar support and the corporation.”

The emergency tents consignment was requested by the government to provide immediate shelter to the front-liners including medical workers who have been deployed in various parts of the country, especially along the southern border due to lack of shelter, as their frequent movement makes building permanent shelters unrealistic.

These emergency tents are not only cost-effective but can also be used to provide space for any public health emergencies.

Besides, the portable handwashing stations and toilets will help in strengthening infection control and preventing Covid-19 with easy access to toilets and handwashing for the frontline workers. These facilities can also be used to provide space for any public health emergencies.

“Lack of access to proper toilets and handwashing stations is one of the biggest challenges for front-liners and vaccinators working along with the high-risk areas. These shortages often demotivate volunteers, and result in open defecation and not washing hands which can lead to infection,” stated the WHO.

Given that communication is a vital part of surveillance and response during such times, it is expected to help front-liners and other health workers on duty exchange information in a reliable way.

“Some front-liners have been deployed to areas without stable and reliable telecommunication networks. This makes surveillance of high-risk zones, where the front-liners are deployed, extremely difficult and dangerous.”

WHO reiterates its commitment to supporting the government in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. “We will continue to work with the government in any emergencies response as well as public health in general,” said Dr. Rui Paulo.