How UNICEF Supporters Can Help Speed Supplies to the Front Lines

May 19, 2020

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF has been working with partners around the clock to get masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to families and frontline health workers. With UNICEF USA's newly launched Fast Fund, supporters can provide the upfront capital UNICEF needs to expedite production and shorten wait times for these lifesaving items. The best part: each $1 invested will yield up to $18 worth of supplies for those who need them the most. Here's how the new fund works, and how to get involved.

In the global fight against COVID-19, the current guidance is that if you have to leave home, wear a mask or face covering to help curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

For health care workers, it’s even more critical to have this personal protective equipment, or PPE — ideally an N95 respirator mask, gloves, gown and a pair of goggles to keep from getting infected and infecting others.

But global supply chains are straining to keep up with the huge demand for these items. Even UNICEF, with its formidable supply and logistics operation and purchasing power as a bulk buyer, is having difficulty getting orders filled quickly and affordably, causing dangerous delays in getting PPE to communities and health clinics that need it the most.

A nurse at a UNICEF-supported health center in Port Bouet, a suburb of Abidjan in the south of Côte d'Ivoire, wears a mask and gloves to protect against COVID-19. The World Health Organization has warned that shortages of personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, goggles and gowns are leaving health workers dangerously ill-equipped to care for COVID-19 patients.© UNICEF/UNI316681/Dejongh

One of the problems is with the financing. And here’s where UNICEF USA and the UNICEF USA Impact Fund for Children have stepped in to help expedite things, with the launch of a new investment fund.

This new Fast Fund, an innovative guaranty facility, offers UNICEF supporters an opportunity to contribute to UNICEF’s response to COVID-19 and achieve impact far in excess of their original investment. Every dollar that goes into the fund stands to generate up to 18 times as much in support for those in need.

Every dollar invested in UNICEF USA's new Fast Fund stands to generate up to 18 times as much in support for those in need. © UNICEF USA

A new fund to invest in — and accelerate — production of PPE, helping UNICEF meet urgent needs

One big issue currently affecting PPE supplies is that suppliers need to be paid in advance before they can start producing the goods. And in today's hypercompetitive market, they are asking for upfront payment without providing the usual guarantees from banks that UNICEF requires. (The COVID-19 crisis has made these third-party bank guarantees difficult or impossible to secure in a timely manner. Many competitors for supplies do not require them.) 

The Fast Fund offers a solution to this financing hurdle, by becoming the guarantor for these PPE contracts — and having fund investors shoulder the risk. Suppliers can move forward with production, and UNICEF can move forward with procurement and distribution in over 90 countries. 

Critical supplies arrive in El Salvador. UNICEF is working with partners in over 90 countries to support emergency response measures against COVID-19 — distributing hygiene, disinfection, cleaning and personal protective equipment, communicating best hygiene practices and prevention, and providing nutrition, education support and psychosocial support to children in need. © UNICEF/UNI317245/Leiva

UNICEF supporters — individuals and organizations — can contribute to the Fast Fund in one of two ways. The first is to make a charitable donation directly in support of the fund, money to be used for future emergencies if and when the fund is no longer needed to fight COVID-19. The second way is to provide a recoverable grant, which is a type of interest-free loan that is repaid only if certain conditions are met. 

"Why support other countries in the fight against COVID-19? Because no one is safe until we are all safe"

“A potential contributor to this new fund might be wondering, why support other countries when the U.S. is also experiencing critical shortages of PPE?” notes UNICEF USA Impact Fund for Children President Cristina Shapiro, whose team manages both the Impact Fund for Children and the new Fast Fund. “And yes, the level of suffering in America right now is unprecedented. But we must not forget that the situation is terribly acute in places that are strapped for resources even in the best of times. We need to join together to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations from COVID-19, because no one is safe until we are all safe.” 

Learn more about the Fast Fund and how to get involved. Contact Michael Levine, Acting Managing Director of the UNICEF USA Impact Fund for Children, at

Top photo: A mother and daughter, photographed at a health center in Port Bouet, a suburb of Abidjan in the south of Côte d'Ivoire, wear masks to protect against COVID-19. Providing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to those in need is a top priority for UNICEF and partners in the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF USA's new investment fund enables UNICEF supporters to guarantee UNICEF's high-volume orders for these lifesaving items, which will help accelerate production and distribution. © UNICEF/UNI316696/Dejongh