UNICEF Rushes Vital Supplies to Help Countries Fight Coronavirus

March 30, 2020

Despite extreme market pressure, UNICEF is procuring and shipping essential supplies — including personal protective equipment — to countries around the world.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its spread across the globe, UNICEF Supply Division is working to procure and ship desperately needed items for vulnerable communities around the world. Despite extreme market conditions including steep price increases, aggressive bullying and emerging export restrictions, UNICEF is engaged with approximately 1,000 suppliers and industry leaders across the world to ensure that medical and hygiene supplies reach those at risk.

Even though demand is outstripping supply for personal protective equipment — particularly for face masks and N95 respirators — UNICEF has secured availability from April to June from suppliers for key products including 26.9 million surgical masks, 4.8 million respirators, 6 million coveralls, 7.1 million surgical gowns, 1.5 million goggles and 29,000 infrared thermometers. 

"Protecting health care workers remains a top priority. These are the heroes on the front line who continue to tirelessly provide care and support to children and families affected in this unprecendented global crisis." — Etleva Kadili, Director of UNICEF Supply Division

"While the speed and scale of the outbreak is posing countless challenges, we continue employing every effort to ensure that UNICEF supplies reach those in need as quickly as possible," said Etleva Kadili, UNICEF's Director of Supply Division in Copenhagen. "Protecting health care workers remains a top priority. These are the heroes on the front line who continue to tirelessly provide care and support to children and families affected in this unprecedented global crisis."

UNICEF's massive supply warehouse in Copenhagen is fully operational, with shifts seven days a week

Europe has been hard hit by COVID-19, but that hasn't stopped UNICEF's Supply Division in Copenhagen — the largest warehouse in the world — from remaining fully operational, with shifts seven days a week. Teams across the division are working hard to get COVID-19 supplies where they are needed while continuing to support other ongoing program operations and respond to emergencies including in Yemen, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Since the start of the outbreak, UNICEF has shipped more than:

  • 4.27 million gloves
  • 573,300 surgical masks
  • 98,931 N95 respiratory masks
  • 156,557 surgical gowns
  • 12,750 goggles 

On March 30, 2020 in Rome, the President of the UNICEF Italian National Committee, Francesco Samengo (in UNICEF vest) and the Executive Director of the UNICEF Italian NatCom, Paolo Rozera (in UNICEF T-shirt) examined a newly arrived shipment of UNICEF medical supplies provided to the Italian Civil Protection Agency for containing and responding to the spread of COVID-19. © UNICEF/UNI315793/Ferzi

UNICEF has delivered around $3 million of hospital equipment and personal protective equipment to Hubei Province and other regions of China to aid the government response to COVID-19, including defibrillators, electrocardiogram monitors, portable ultrasound systems, infusion pumps, N95 masks, gowns, goggles, protective suits and gloves. 

Since March 1, three shipments — weighing around 8 metric tons — of PPE supplies have arrived in Tehran, Iran. The supplies have been distributed to hospitals and health facilities in six of the country's most affected provinces. Another 18.5 tons of PPE items are expected to arrive in Iran in the coming days.

Last week, UNICEF shipped 14 metric tons of PPE equipment to Pakistan to protect frontline health care workers, including 114,300 surgical masks, 12,681 gowns and 449,868 gloves. Other scheduled shipments include PPE to North Korea, Eritrea, Indonesia, Palestine and Venezuela and oxygen concentrators to South Sudan, DRC, Eritrea, Ukraine and Afghanistan.

Export and travel restrictions are creating unprecedented challenges for freight operations globally, disrupting supply chains and causing bottlenecks, delays and higher costs. To address these challenges, UNICEF is reviewing global cargo aircraft capacity and coverage and working with country offices, freight forwarders and partner organizations to prioritize shipments and arrange charter operations to make sure lifesaving supplies get where they are needed most.  

UNICEF has also taken preventive measures by decentralizing some of its critical stocks, moving essential relief supplies including Emergency Kits from Copenhagen to hubs in Dubai, Panama and Accra, with similar arrangements in the works for the Eastern and Southern Africa region. 

UNICEF is decentralizing some of its critical stocks, moving essential relief supplies from Copenhagen to regional hubs 

"COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back. Individual country responses are not going to be enough," United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said at a joint press conference on March 25 announcing the launch of a $2 billion coordinated global humanitarian response to COVID-19 in 51 countries across South America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. 

"COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity  — and so the whole of humanity must fight back." — United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres

“We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves. This is a matter of basic human solidarity. It is also crucial for combating the virus. This is the moment to step up for the vulnerable.”

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Top photo: Sent from UNICEF's supply warehouse in Copenhagen, a shipment of more than 3 metric tons of supplies needed to fight the coronavirus arrived in Tehran, Iran on March 5, 2020. © UNICEF/UNI314219/Sayyari