The Japanese government has continued to expand its support for Laos during this unprecedented period of uncertainty.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been difficult for countries around the world and each has faced its own unique problems. With a strategic partnership forged through a long history of cooperation and respect, this support began as soon as it became clear the world was facing a global disaster.
When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 outbreak a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’ in January 2020, the Government of Japan was quick to recognize that the immediate problem facing Laos was to ensure that the health service workers were supplied with high-quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Just a few days after this announcement, they brought in supplies of isolation gowns, surgical and N95 respirator masks, goggles, gloves, and sanitizing hand gel.
As the virus spread, the WHO was forced to declare the outbreak a pandemic in March 2020. After a careful review of the most pressing needs of the Lao government, a further donation, this time including PCR testing related equipment and patient monitors, totaling over USD 3,000,000, was made as part of the UNOPS Emergency procurement of critical medical equipment.
It became clear that much more was needed to assist with the problems being faced in Laos, and to do everything possible to prevent the virus from further spread.
To this end, further donations of ambulances, PPE equipment, technical assistance, and anti-viral medicines were made over the next few months, bringing the total donations related to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 to over USD 17.5 million.
This support continued in 2021, working with international organizations that are specialists in different areas, such as UNICEF, IOM, and FAO. Communication issues were hampering the delivery of some health messages so the Japanese government supplied devices such as community radios and loudspeakers enabling farmers and other people living away from the cities to be able to protect themselves and their families.
Around the world, scientists were working on ways to protect people and AstraZeneca vaccines arrived through the COVAX system – of which the Japanese government is a major contributor – in August and December 2021.
These vaccines need to be kept in cold, controlled conditions, and, working with UNICEF, the Government of Japan supplied cold-chain equipment for these vaccines as well as provided technical assistance to support their running and maintenance. Until this point, Laos had been spared the waves of patients from the virus that other countries had seen, but this was soon to change.
When the surge hit, the Government of Japan worked alongside UNOPS to provide Emergency Grant Aid in the form of oxygen concentrators, patient monitors and suction pumps to enable the hard-working health workers to be able to provide good care to those hospitalized with the virus, together with more PCR testing related equipment and ongoing technical support.
Over the two years, this support has totaled almost USD 25,000,000.