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Japan, UNIDO to boost local production of PPE

BY: Doreen Andoh
Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu (middle), Minister of Health, flanked by Mr Tsutomu Himeno (right), the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, and Mr Fakhruddin Azizi, the UNIDO Country Representative in Ghana, launching the project
Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu (middle), Minister of Health, flanked by Mr Tsutomu Himeno (right), the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, and Mr Fakhruddin Azizi, the UNIDO Country Representative in Ghana, launching the project

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has launched a project to boost local production of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The project, dubbed, “Promoting public health and social resilience against COVID-19”, is expected to strengthen domestic supply of personal protective equipment under a circular economy approach.

The Japanese government and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) are supporting the project with funding and technical advice.

Launched in Accra last Wednesday, the project also seeks to improve public health and respond positively to the COVID-19 situation in the country.

Under the project, a range of capacity-building activities to strengthen local manufacturing companies producing face masks and other PPE would be rolled out, in addition to empowering them to use natural plant-based chemicals in the production of hand sanitiser.

The project’s implementation will be facilitated by UNIDO in collaboration with the Ministries of Health and Trade and Industry.

COVID-19 response plan

The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, said the project fell directly in line with the ministry’s revised National Strategic COVID-19 Response Plan (2020 – 2024) which sought to "increase domestic capacity and self reliance".

He said the overall goal of the revised National Strategic COVID-19 Response Plan was to reduce incidences of the disease as well as curb deaths arising because of it and the negative impact it was having on socio-economic life.

He said, “the ministry is happy to be part of the project because it aligns to our strategy to improve public health and socio-economic life of the people,” he said.

Vaccine manufacturing base

Mr Agyemang-Manu said within the framework of the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda, the government through the MoH was in advanced talks with AstraZeneca, one of the world's leading developers and producers of pharmaceutical products and a recent manufacturer of a vaccine for the COVID-19, to set up a local manufacturing base in Ghana in the long term.

He said the presence of the world-renowned pharmaceutical company would build local capacity through knowledge and expertise sharing and put the country in a better position to respond to the threats of future public health emergencies.

He said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was so serious it had led to a dramatic loss of human life and brought about severe human development crisis, where in some dimensions, conditions were equivalent to levels of deprivation last seen in the 1980s.

The health minister said ever since the onset of COVID-19, many small and medium-sized enterprises continued to shutdown leading to unprecedented increase in global unemployment figures.

He said as a consequence, governments across the world, especially in low and middle-level countries, also continued to struggle with implementation of basic health and safety measures for frontline health workers.

“Given the difficult nature of the pandemic situation, universal access to personal protective equipment (PPE), has become a scarce resource.

“This challenge I must say is felt especially by the poor and vulnerable who are burdened with the task of securing PPE to protect their health and keep safe in the ongoing pandemic,” he said.

To address the immense economic, humanitarian and development crisis brought about as a result of the pandemic, Mr Agyemang-Manu said countries, especially the low and middle income ones, must chart a path to build full domestic capacity in the production of PPE in order to become self-reliant and for better health and economic outcomes.

Healthy workforce

The Japanese Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Tsutomu Himeno, assured the country that the government and the people of Japan would continue to support it in the fight against the COVID-19, as well as with its national development agenda.

He said the partnership between the two countries presented yet another opportunity for Japan to support the country with its industrialisation programme.

He said key among the various sectors where Japan was supporting Ghana was health because the sector was key to development.

“Development can only be achieved with a healthy workforce,” he said.

The UNIDO Country Representative in Ghana, Mr Fakhruddin Azizi, said the year 2020 was characterised by challenges posed by the global pandemic.

He said, however, that the strong leadership shown by the government had brought the pandemic under control and ensured local content in the production of hand sanitiser and PPE.

Mr Azizi said the project to boost production of PPE was initiated by UNIDO in collaboration with the MoH and the Japanese government to avoid disruption in the supply of PPE and hand sanitiser.

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