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MBABANE – Should this be a cause for concern? The World Health Organisation has left the Kingdom of Eswatini out of the list of countries to benefit from personal protective equipment (PPE) being distributed in light of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The PPE includes gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns and aprons.
This is unprecedented because with previous similar outbreaks such as Ebola and Swine Flu (H1N1), the country benefitted just like other African States.

However, this time, Eswatini is not part of those countries that have benefitted and this happens at a time when the kingdom’s immediate neighbour, South Africa, has recorded its first case of the disease that has killed more than 3 400 people so far and more than 100 000 individuals infected worldwide.

African countries that were given PPE include Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Togo, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.


In the WHO website, which is updated on a daily basis, Eswatini does not appear on the list that was posted on Tuesday.
Other regions that were covered in the distribution of the equipment are in Western Pacific, Eastern Mediterranean and Southern Asia, covering about 47 countries in total.

The equipment was distributed since the outbreak of the disease, which WHO has declared a global crisis.
Minister of Health Lizzie Nkosi said the exclusion was because Eswatini was not considered to be a poor country in this regard.
She explained that the WHO was targeting poor countries and those that have already had confirmed cases of coronavirus.

“WHO will assist us in other aspects such as providing us with a laboratory and also training of staff,” Nkosi said.
She said the country was hoping to get a grant directed to the fight against coronavirus from the World Bank.


While government views the country’s exclusion from the list of beneficiaries as an innocent decision, nurses understand it to be politically motivated.

Bheki Mamba, the President of the Swaziland Democratic Nurses Union (SWADNU), said there was influence from certain political players that led to WHO not considering Eswatini.

He said it was not true that Eswatini had suddenly elevated from the bracket it was classified under at the time when the WHO assisted it to fight diseases like Swine Flu, which were almost similar to this one.

“We fully understand what is happening behind the scenes; unfortunately, this is affecting us nurses. By the look of things we are far from being ready to handle the disease, especially with the budget of a mere E100 million,” he said.

Mamba said should push come to a shove, they would definitely advise nurses not to expose themselves because there was no equipment to deal with the virus.


Meanwhile, the WHO has also announced acute shortage of the supply of PPE worldwide, attributing this to rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse.
The health organisation has since requested industries and governments to increase manufacturing by 40 per cent to meet the rising demand.

“The World Health Organisation has warned that severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) – caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse – is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases.”

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted as having said: “Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first.”
It was also noted that since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged up to six times while prices of gowns and respirators have tripled.

The close to 500 000 sets of PPE that has been distributed to 47 countries has not been enough as an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month.
“For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.”

UNICEF on the other hand has flown in 13 tonnes of supplies, including protective suits, masks, goggles and gloves for use by health workers since January 29, 2020. It is also making means to carry out additional shipment to key locations.

Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, countries that have received WHO PPE supplies include:
Western Pacific region: Cambodia, Fiji, Kiribati, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea,

Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and the Philippines
l     Southeast Asia region: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor-Leste
l     Eastern Mediterranean region: Afghanistan, Djibouti, Lebanon, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, Jordan, Morocco and Iran
l     Africa region: Senegal, Algeria, Ethiopia, Togo, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mozambique, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.

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