On June 2nd, 2021, Japan co-hosted the COVAX AMC Summit with Gavi to procure funds to provide vaccines for developing countries. Taking this opportunity, let me sum up Japan’s assistance for the world and Nepal in the fight against this formidable infectious disease. I think it is useful for the readers to be presented with Japan’s efforts in a rather comprehensive manner. Japan has been taking a multifaceted approach to this effect, i.e., international fora; bilateral context; vaccines; cold chain; medical equipment; enhancing health sector (water, nutrition, etc.), and technical assistance for capacity building.
This piece provides a summary of the contribution which Japan has been extending to the world, as well as to Nepal, in the pandemic. No matter how much difficulties the COVID-19 pandemic may cause, I believe we will be able to overcome the pandemic by tackling it together.
1. Extending support to ensure COVID-19 vaccinations for all
Responding to the outbreak, the Government of Japan took a leading role to formulate the COVAX Facility in cooperation with Gavi to ensure everyone, including our Nepali friends, can be vaccinated. Japan was the first country that donated a financial contribution to the newly-established COVAX Facility. We co-hosted the COVAX AMC Summit on June 2nd, 2021 to call further upon the solidarity and commitment of the international community. It is my pleasure to tell you that the Summit was a great success--thanks to the additional pledges from governments and the private sector, achieving far more than the target of $8.3 billion USD. This will enable 1.8 billion vaccine doses for nearly 30 percent of the population in the COVAX Facility AMC-eligible economies including Nepal. Japanese Prime Minister Suga announced an additional contribution for the COVAX Facility from Japan, making it 1 billion USD in total--the second biggest commitment from a single country only after the USA.
The vaccine is important, but the cold chain is also vital. It is necessary to deliver vaccines safely to the people who need it. Japan has contributed to UNICEF (41 million USD) for cold-chain facilities to ensure that the vaccine will reach down as “Last One Mile Support,” for all to be vaccinated. We have installed medical equipment for cold-storage facilities to assist the transportation of vaccines for 25 South East and South West Asian and Pacific Island countries including Nepal. We hope it becomes available in Nepal by August 2021. It is our wish that the facility will be used effectively for the rapid progress of the immunization process all over the country.
In addition to this, as the Prime Minister stated at the COVAX AMC Summit, Japan also places importance on support for health security in a wide range of areas including nutrition, water, and sanitation to achieve Universal Health Coverage. In this context, Japan will host the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 this coming December to raise awareness for better nutrition for all. Japan is determined to continue to lead international efforts in the health sector, with an emphasis on multilateralism by leading the world to “build back better.”
2. Ensuring availability of medical equipment to hospitals across Nepal
On a bilateral front, Japan is providing medical equipment for hospitals all over the country under the Japanese Grant Aid (2.7 million USD). So far, 25 blood gas analyzers and 25 portable ultrasound image diagnostic systems have been handed over to hospitals.
As the latest example of bilateral assistance, the Japanese Embassy handed over 160 high concentration oxygen generators to the Ministry of Health and Population of Nepal on June 3, 2021 and they will be delivered to 58 hospitals around the country for the urgent treatment of COVID-19 patients. Oxygen generators are significantly useful especially for the urgent treatment of COVID-19 patients. The high-tech equipment can “generate” highly concentrated oxygen without the need of oxygen cylinders. The Embassy of Japan is now working to provide additional numbers of such oxygen generators. Furthermore, six ambulances will arrive in Nepal in October. While the shortage of ambulances is a serious problem during this pandemic, these Made-in-Japan Ambulances with medical equipment will serve as mobile hospitals to manage emergency care for COVID-19 patients.
In addition to this, I signed the note last April to provide medical equipment for eight advanced public hospitals to be used for treatment and consultation of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as an MRI (9 million USD). Patients with underlying NCD diseases are at higher risk of becoming critical if they are infected with COVID-19. The enhancement of diagnostic and therapeutic services for NCDs in public hospitals has become more important and urgent than ever.
3. Helping secure medical equipment and other essentials
In addition to the COVAX Facility, Japan joins hands with various UN and international organizations to secure medical equipment and necessities in Nepal to fight against COVID-19, cooperating with UNHCR, IOM, UNICEF and IFRC (4.17 million USD). We also assist food security in Nepal with WFP, supporting the mother and the child health and nutritional program in the vulnerable districts of Province 1 and 2 (3.47 million USD).
4. Providing training to Nepali government specialists and supporting local areas
One of our aims in Nepal is to improve the overall public health condition of the country. Japan has been training Nepali government specialists under our annual technical cooperation program since 2003. In the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to improve overall public health and we support the installation of water tanks for hand washing and the capacity building of the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) in Sundarijal a part of the Melamchi Water Supply Project assisted by Japan. We also provide protective materials such as masks, sanitizers, gloves, and protective clothes as well as PCR test kits for local areas as part of our technical cooperation program.
I hope that all these endeavors of Japan will help Nepali people and medical professionals, who face difficulties caused by the COVID-19 situation. Japan always stands behind Nepal to combat this pandemic together and to achieve sustainable socio-economic growth of the country.