Ministry of Health receives cold chain equipment from UNICEF supported by Japan

Ms. Emma Brigham, UNICEF Sri Lanka Representative, a.i. and Akira Sugiyama, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka handing over 500 vaccine carriers to the Minister of Health, Pavithra Wanniarachchi at the UNICEF office.

Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Health has received the first batch of cold chain equipment procured by UNICEF with funding from the Government of Japan to strengthen Sri Lanka’s delivery of immunization services, including against COVID-19.

Ms. Emma Brigham, UNICEF Sri Lanka Representative, a.i. and Akira Sugiyama, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka yesterday, April 30, handed over 500 vaccine carriers at the UNICEF office. The items were received by the Minister of Health, Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

The next consignments will include 100 ice lined refrigerators, 145 fridge temperature monitors and over 1,000 vaccine carriers.

“These equipment are not only critical for the current rollout of vaccinations, including the second dose for the COVID-19 vaccines which just started, but also the long-term support to the entire immunization program. We are thankful to the Government of Japan for providing grants for these important items that is much needed for provision of vaccination and to strengthen our cold chain management. Let me recall our long-term relationship between Sri Lanka and Japan and we know that you never hesitate to support our country,” said Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

“Also, with the same spirit, I want to mention that UNICEF has been supporting throughout Sri Lanka with procurement related to cold chain equipment and immunization and on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka, my sincere gratitude to UNICEF,” she added.

Speaking at the event, Ambassador Sugiyama said, “As a long-time friend of Sri Lanka, Japan extends ‘Last One Mile Support’ to Sri Lanka to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all people in need across the country by supporting the cold chain system”.

“While Japan extends such emergency assistance through UNICEF to developing countries across the world, the 500 vaccine carriers handed over to Sri Lanka today is the very first batch of vaccine equipment under our global ‘Last One Mile Support’ program. We would like to thank UNICEF Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Health for their efficient procurement efforts. The Government of Japan believes that the 500 vaccine carriers will accelerate the vaccination program in Sri Lanka by safe and prompt distribution of vaccines under proper temperature control,” Ambassador Sugiyama also said.

“The Government of Japan has so far provided USD 14.4 million assistance for Sri Lanka’s COVID -19 response as well as contributed USD 200 million to the COVAX Facility. Japan will continue to stand in solidarity with the government and people of Sri Lanka in the joint combat against COVID-19,” he highlighted.

Sri Lanka is currently rolling out vaccinations against the pandemic for prioritized groups, including the elderly population above 60 years of age in high-risk areas impacted by COVID-19, in line with the National Vaccine Deployment Plan of the Ministry of Health (MOH).

“There couldn’t have been any better time to handover over this cold chain equipment than during this World Immunization Week being marked under the themes, Vaccines bring us closer together and Vaccines work,” said Ms. Emma Brigham.

“This partnership of the Government of Japan, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health precisely demonstrates the power of coming together to boost immunization services, which are now more important than ever, given the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF is grateful for the long-standing support from the people and Government of Japan and the strong collaboration with the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka,” she also said.

Through the COVAX Facility, in March, UNICEF brought in the first batch of 264,000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca ‘Covishield’ vaccines which are currently being rolled out. The cold chain equipment received yesterday will boost the overall immunization system, including to receive, store and roll-out the COVID-19 vaccination program.